Saturday, 31 March 2007

Sorites Paradox

Perhaps better known as the heap paradox, the Sorites paradox investigates the point at which a dwindling heap of sand ceases to be describable as a heap.

Having spent the morning re-reading my current ms, I've reached a number of tentative conclusions. The chapters that excite me most involve interaction, are the most easy to read, contain a mixture of humour and foreboding, and contain dialogue.
So what would happen if I simply removed all the other stuff?

My quest for a manuscript peppered with gold coins now seems moot. I should consider looking at this goal from the reverse angle: How much time do I spend on non-gold coin moments?
The answer is: Waaay too much!
It's not that I don't have a lot of good material, it's that I have too much dense material. It's the ratio between enjoyable and heavy, but beneficial material that I need to examine.
Whilst I have removed all the non-essential stuff, I am still asking the reader to 'bear with me through this bit because it is important' for too lengthy periods.
Solution? Spread these moments out; ensure that the ratio per chapter is always in favour of the gold coins. How much in favour? Well, there you have your Sorites paradox.
How, then, to judge? Well, I can only imagine that trial-and-error will assist me here. Furthermore, moving portions around might damage the intricate construction of my narrative.

I faced much the same problem with my last short story. The story is precariously balanced and I think I just about kept it together. But I decided from the off that the story would be slave to the emotional topography: the ordering of neat passages of discrete emotional stimulae would take priority over the narrative. Balancing them became a compromise in which, where necessary, the emotional topography won out every time. The trick, here, is to eliminate the 'where necessary' part. This is relatively easy in a 1,500 word short story, but in a 100k novel it is considerably harder.

And so it is almost time to face my ms again. There are still a number of other issues and my greatest concern has always been the problem of bonding the reader to such a peculiar protagonist. I'm thinking that, by opening with protag as a reasonably normal and likeable chap (rather than by introducing him as an oddball, in which case I create anticipation but at the cost of bonding), the reader will more willingly sink into the story.
I have no idea how big a job this will be, but I am still excited enough by much of what I have created to extend my loyalty to this work.

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