Wednesday, 1 April 2009

Moving Forwards

Happy April Fool's Day!

Things are going well!
Since my last blog post, I've been such a busy bee.
I have a suspicion that a very noodly post is in order ...

I've refined my plot (although I struggle to imagine how anyone could create a watertight plot from the outset without need or desire to amend it during that very revealing writing stage). My arcane eye of development reigned over the revisions.
I've filled some holes with lots of research.
If you're unfamiliar with the structure of sonata form, you might be interested to learn that sonata form is written in five parts: intro, exposition, development, recapitulation, and coda. And it's fascinating to examine how composers dealt with these parts in different ways!
Ah yes, development!

I've rewritten chapter four twice.
Trying to predict the questions in the reader's head helped me to decide what needed to be developed. But I also had so many set-ups in the chapter that I elected to shift many of them to other parts of the manuscript. I even decided that one set-up could/should wait until the second act. And, in order to unify those apparently disparate set-ups which remained, I found a word-palette - a theme which I discovered in the final chapter of the first act, and which I have woven into a good number of other chapters.
The chapter was also problematic because it required a series of flashbacks, and I'm not a huge fan of flashbacks because they take the reader out of 'the moment' and are liable to damage immersion. Plus, the frequent shifting between present day and the previous winter forced me to create a series of seamless links. However, in order to present information in the order which gives the best solution (that I could conjure), the flashbacks were necessary.
Above all, though, the distribution of set-ups still troubles me.
I was watching a tv programme last night in which Alan Davies learned about, amongst other things, the distribution of prime numbers, from Professor Marcus du Sautoy. If you missed it, check out this cool excerpt!
It struck me that the topography of the distribution of primes, which is a pattern found throughout nature (much like the golden ratio), resembled my idea of the distribution of set-ups. There's a bunch of them at the beginning, and then little clusters spread along the topography. Really, it kept me awake for hours! Yes it did.
And I got to thinking about my French chummy who argues, very eloquently, for the slow beginning.
If we go back to the concept of multiple games of Deal or No Deal, we can imagine that several games begin in quick succession, and then are developed in turn, and then more games are started ... What we find is that there's a certain down-time required at the start of each game, where the player is introduced and the viewer goes to make a cuppa. However, once set-up, the games are free to develop without loss of momentum. (Btw, it's the 1000th Deal or No Deal today! Guess it's still popular eh!)

I wrote the final chapter to Act I.
With so many sub-plots established, I had a joyous time writing the conclusion to Act I.

Question: Does a wonderful pay-off justify a slow opening?

I had a ball, tying up loose ends and splicing sub-plots into the protag's quest, spiralling through reveal after reveal, forging an emotional topography which never stays still and which swings across all manner of emotions. It came in at over 6000 words and is the longest chapter I have written, and I wrote it in two sittings. I think it's the best thing I have ever written too.
But I am a little concerned that, in order to create this chapter, I had to scatter a good few set-ups throughout the first act.
I'm being very careful about which books I'm reading: I don't want to ingest a style which is too different to mine. So I've been limiting myself to Hemingway, and now I'm half-way through Manuel Puig's Kiss of the Spider Woman.
Actually, this is my second attempt to read it. I'm finding it a very slow book. However, my interest has been rekindled with a brilliant reveal mid-way through the book. I have to wonder at this logic; I wonder how many people would bail out before reaching the wonderful twist.

Question: What keeps a reader reading?

Puig develops very little. His two protags, Molina and Valentin, share a prison cell. Want to know more about them? Well tough, because Puig elected to have Molina relive his favourite movies, much to Valentin's pleasure. So Puig develops a series of stories in quick succession, which he does well, but he chooses to develop the relationship between Molina and Valentin (which is the heart of the plot) in sporadic dribs and drabs. Moreover, I've taken to skipping all the psychoanalytical footnotes in order to retain any sort of pace. (I'll maybe read them later.)
Developing stuff isn't the only way to keep the reader interested, for sure. I'm guessing that literary minds far greater than mine have found pleasure in Puig's techniques, and I'm guessing that, for many people, the retelling of the movies is enjoyable. But what about the questions I want answered? What about developing the things that are important to me?: what about demonstrating that the story is moving towards a conclusion? which is something that a series of unconnected tales does not achieve.
Hey, I might eat my words once I've finished the novel. However, half-way through the novel, in my opinion Puig has moved too slowly because he has shown me little motivation and, as such, given me few developments towards a resolution.

I've written the opening to Act II.
It's very strange. So much has changed. So much has been developed.
And, I confess, I'm getting little guilt pangs knowing that I'm setting my poor protag up for a major fall. Gosh, he's been with me for ages now.
Act II picks up the story two months later. My first problem was how to bridge the gaps without employing flashbacks. I found several ways of doing so whilst remaining 'in the moment'; mainly, little hints threaded into pertinent dialogue works well.
I've employed a variation on McKee's charge switches. That's to say that, as I give something to my protag, I then choose to take something away. The pace of the switches in the final chapter of the first act is all but breakneck. But, considering a more holistic charge, I have attempted to end the first act on a positive, and I intend to end the second act on a negative, with an open-ended positive to conclude the ms.

I'm in love!
Mystery Genius blogged fairly recently about something with which we are all familiar: Falling in and out of love with our work. To be honest, if I stop to think about all the things that might prevent an agent from loving my ms, I would be most discouraged. I could probably make a very long list.
However, there's little use in thinking in such a way, and I'm attempting to finish this ms as I ride out my redundancy. It's comforting to think that, if I average 3000 words a day, I'll have the second act first-passed in ten days or so. Even if I only succeed in averaging 1500 words a day, and allowing for time spent in the real world, I'll have it first-passed in a month. Just have to keep the faith!

And so we keep moving forwards, learning and striving for something unseen, and I begin to wonder how I will feel when this ms is completed.


R1X said...

Good stuff oh-Mister Jig.

Glad to see you still sticking with it, learning and gurning, and showing me ways of thunking.

Meant to say thank you for your crit. Very much appreciated.

Nevertheless, I have now opted for a first person pov. Spoke to Arizela:

And appended a 3 page opener with a psychic opposite the library before placing CK right outside and in danger with Fynn, compressing the situation. Just working on that second chapter now.

solv said...

Ah, always a pleasure to read your work my friend!
And Esy's too when he gets round to it (nudge nudge).
And isn't Arizela amazing! I have to ask her about stomach operations soon.
Just about to type up this morning's work. Today, I have learnt how to create a French braided bow style using a barrette, and how to make a scrummy mussel casserole.
Looking forward to more marvellous offerings in my inbox! ;D