Tuesday, March 14, 2006

A Tale of Two Scenes

Apologies to Dickens... couldn't resist.

Recently I've written a new chapter, plumbing the history of the antagonist in my novel. It's been quite a bit of fun, and I'm looking forward to filling in more of the gaps that currently are only spanned in the confines of my mind. (An aside, why is it sometimes that writing the "bad-guys" is easier than the "good-guys?" By and large, I've had much stronger positive reaction to just about every antagonist chapter I've put the book before... which is why I'm expanding those sections. I hope that doesn't mean I'm evil or something!)

This most recent chapter includes two main scenes, showing the development of a relationship between the antagonist POV character and his leader. I'm not sure whether either of these scenes will make it into the novel, and frankly I started out a lot more suspicious of whether the first of the two will make the cut.

So last night I sat down to edit the chapter into shape for critique group, and what did I find? The scene that I was already questioning in my mind needed TONS more work. The pages were littered with blue ink, while the later scene came through largely unscathed. I don't remember whether I had specific doubts about the first scene as I was writing it, but it's interesting the parallel between them. I did expect at the time that the second would be the stronger scene, but it's weird how much of that's reflected in the word-by-word details.

I'm traveling for business the rest of this week (a rare occasion for me) so hopefully I'll be able to make some good progress while I'm away. I've only packed one novel to take with. That should prompt me to pick up my own scattered pages and get stuff done!

Sunday, March 5, 2006

Details, details, details

As I've mentioned before, one of the major goals in my current rewrite for my novel is to deepen the level of detail in the world. It's important that the reader be taken to this alternate universe I'm creating, that they can see the texture of it, believe that it's real.

Interestingly, though, working the details into the text hasn't made it much longer. I'm finding that it's a lot more about focus, how you can weave the information into the action and dialog that's already going on. When you can drop those little hints that speak subtly to the reader, that's satisfying.

Not to say that I'm anywhere near mastering this, but it's good fun learning. In the first chapter, one of my critique group members pointed out a nice expository paragraph that I had plunked down. Good information, but totally dead on the page, "Why are you telling me this?" type of stuff. Her suggestion for fixing it was excellent as well. For example, if you have a science experiment in scene, and it is actually important that the reader understand it, don't just describe it. Have something go wrong. Show the scientist struggling with it, having conflict, messing it up. By imbuing the experiment with that additional tension, you've got a meaningful structure in the story for explaining the more mundane details you need to get across.