Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Getting that chapter right

I'm currently working through the early chapters of my second draft of Spirit Quest. The first one works quite well, but the next couple kind of limp through. Especially the second chapter. The tone of this chapter was a bit too light-hearted. I wanted it to be a day-in-the-life of our protagonists, but it turned out to be a bit too slapstick.

I tried rewriting it and streamlined the characters. The scene originally had one protagonist and four secondary characters. Then I thought about these secondary characters, realizing that they didn't add much to the story beyond their appearance. And their appearance, in some places, was just to make sure that my protagonist wasn't talking out loud to herself. I trimmed that down to one protagonist and two secondary characters. The flow was better and I felt the scene really tighten up. But, I couldn't get the right feel, it seemed a little too comedic. And early on in your story, you want to reinforce the style and comedy wasn't were this story was going.

I came back to it and decided to pull it. I rewrote another chapter in a different setting with similar secondary characters, but it spiralled away on me and will probably be used as a short story at some point.

I rewrote the scene again and decided to pull in my other protagonist. That chapter was finally the right fit, or at least I hope it is. Who knows what'll happen to that chapter by the time I finish the second draft. The chapter is multi-purpose, in that it introduces us to both of these characters and gets them to meet each other and leaves seeds for them to establish a relationship.

I find it interesting that readers will never see the other versions (or perhaps will in short stories). And can't help but wonder what kind of cut scenes from our favourite books we'll never get to read?

If a chapter doesn't feel right, try coming at it from a different angle, or character. Review the characters in that chapter. Do they all serve a purpose? Are they all really needed to keep this scene going? Will they ever appear again in the story? And if that doesn't work, put the chapter aside and re-write it from scratch. That's what we writers are supposed to be at, right?

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