Tuesday, November 15, 2011

We Now Interrupt This Regularly Scheduled Program...

So I might be interrupting work on my NaNo project of book 3 to pause and try to figure out what the hell is going on with Book 2. I got a beta read that was a perfect zinger, cutting through my crap and pointing out some of the core problems with the book - namely, that we don't feel connected to the main character, that there doesn't seem a lot of reason to care about her, that it's emotionally dry.

Underneath, I knew it. Everything I built up in book 1 just kind of fizzled here. It's like a skeleton, dried out dead bones. There's a sort of life-like structure, but not much flesh and no heart. I meant to keep working on book 3, but now that I see so clearly what needs fixing on book 2, I don't think I can go forward without pausing to dig into it. Also, if I don't figure out what's going on emotionally in this book, how can I blunder forward with the next book, making the same mistakes?

So I've spent a lot of my writing time today staring into space. Trying to feel out what draws me to a good story. How to develop an emotional core.
I think one secret to doing this is NOT to just have events occurring and your mc just being batted around by circumstance. Good TV shows have a way of doing this--creating a doubleness to the action so that it's always mirroring something going on internally with the characters. I'm thinking specifically of last season of Fringe. For example, there's one episode where they are investigating a doppelganger and Peter explicitly asks how the person's partner hadn't known the person they were sleeping with had been switched. Of course, in a perfect case of dramatic irony, the audience knows what Peter doesn't. The person Peter himself is getting close to isn't who he thinks she is either. And just like the spouse of the person in the case, he doesn't notice the difference, even when its so blatantly in front of him.

When shows do this well, it's like a kick in gut as you watch. It's so enthralling having the reinforced emotional texture rebounding at a number of different levels. The first season of Lost did this really masterfully too. Everything occurring in the present action would then be mirrored in the flashbacks of one character's life before--both stories weaving together into one cohesive emotional whole that packs far more punch.

Now if I can just figure out how to work this out in my novel. Every scene should be building on this emotional tension and speeding up to the climax. What does my mc want? What is her obsession? What is she dying in want of?


  1. How I love Fringe and all JJ Abrams shows, let me count the ways. I actually affectionately consider myself a student of the JJ Abrams school of writing.

    But in all seriousness, i feel you on book 2. I've had similar issues, and I think it's due largely to the pressure of deadlines and someone having, you know, paid for 2 more books! You will figure it out, and it will be spectacular. I'm sure of it.

  2. I'm working through my own book2 now & it definitely has its challenges. For me it helps to keep in mind that the plot's more interesting and organic if the major conflicts in book2 come from mistakes that my characters make in book1.

  3. Gennifer - yep, exactly, one thing I wasn't expecting last year when I was so eager to sell a book: book deals = pressure cooker!

    Jessica - I love that idea!!