My Monday enthusiasm didn’t last very long. I think part of my issue this week is that I’m at a point in the book I’m rewriting in which things are diverging significantly from my original story, and I’m struggling to get a sense of how it should go now. I’ve made a few false starts, realized that was heading the wrong way, scrapped it, and went back to square one.
One of the things I’m wrestling with is finding the balance between proactive, informed characters and characters who are so effective that they shortchange the story. You don’t have a story without a struggle. If your detective is so brilliant that he can take one look at a crime scene and solve the case, there isn’t much of a mystery. On the other hand, if the villain is so good that he can be five steps ahead of the hero and the hero doesn’t stand a chance, you don’t have much of a story. If characters have key bits of information, there needs to be a reason why they haven’t acted on it yet, but if they act on it too soon, it changes the story.
The big change I’ve made is that one of the characters knows a lot and has been trying to make things happen. In an earlier draft, she knew some things, but she didn’t know things needed to happen until other people showed up, but that made not only her but also everyone else too passive. But if she’s been trying to make things happen, there needs to be a reason why she can’t just resolve it all when she comes on the scene. I’ve had to figure out what she knows, why she doesn’t know the things she doesn’t know, and why she hasn’t done more already. That means I’ve had to figure out her entire backstory and what she’s been doing before she meets the POV character. I think by the time this book is done, I’ll have written about three times as much material as I need, between rewrites and the behind-the-scenes and backstory stuff I’ve written out. But if I don’t write it out, the scene just fizzles.
In fact, I just realized that’s what I need to do for the scene I’ve been struggling with. I need to write out what’s been going on with one of the characters, leading up to the scene and even write a draft of the scene from her perspective. That will help me know what she should be saying. It’s impossible (or, at least, difficult) to write that kind of scene knowing only what the POV character knows.
So, maybe I’ll get more written today, before I have to go deal with the choir kids.