Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Taking Hart

Much to my surprise I'm back at work on Hart.

Well, work might be overstating it, since I think I'll go to the movies today and tomorrow my friend Cynthia is taking me to look for eagles and Thursday my mother and I go visit Dr. Thyroid. But yesterday I actually did some writing, and I guess that constitutes work.

When I decided to take a break from the book, I kind of figured the break would be permanent. But within a couple of days, my brain was back to trying to solve the problems, and now I think maybe I have.

What I knew worked about Hart was the basic premise and roughly the second half of the book. But I also knew I had one big problem and two very big problems that were killing the first half and weakening the second.

The big problem had to do with character motivation. Hart has a non-reality based premise, but even so, the characters are human beings for the most part, and have to behave in believable fashion. It is always a bad sign when I have to convince myself that the characters are behaving realistically, and I found I was doing a lot of self-convincing. Much of last week's brain process was devoted to making sense of what the characters were doing, and I think that's pretty well taken care of.

The lesser of the very big problems was a logistical one, and frankly it's not totally solved yet. There's an enormous amount of backstory. Rachel, my heroine, knows things the readers don't, and Hart, the love interest, knows things Rachel has to learn. Mostly people find out stuff from other people telling them, and that means a lot of talky scenes. Now I adore writing talky scenes, but editors aren't so crazy about them.

The other way readers learn things that characters already know is through flashbacks. Once again, I adore writing flashbacks, but editors aren't so crazy about them. And even if you use flashbacks, you have to find a way to weave them into the story. Otherwise they're just giant chunks of interruption.

I am now limiting the flashback scenes to three parts, all of which should be either scary or upsetting or both. I'm still having a little trouble with whether to reveal them chronologically or go from worse to worser to worsest. If you think of them in alphabetical order, that's CAB, as opposed to ABC for chronological or even CBA for reverse chronological. I need to work that out.

As far as Rachel learning things from Hart, as of the moment Hart's going to have to tell her. Maybe I'll be able to do something more with the sacrifice in the woods scene, or maybe Rachel could have a dream/vision (she's good at that), but even so, Hart's going to have to confirm stuff. Oh well. I'll worry about that when the time comes.

The biggest very big problem is that Rachel is for the most part a victim, and it's surprisingly hard to write a book from a victim's point of view and have the readers care about the main character. Victims are very irritating. You want to yell at them to shape up, fight back, don't take it anymore. One reason the end of Hart works is because at the end Rachel does fight back (in a delightfully noirish way), but she suffers entirely too much before she gets to that point. And the suffering that takes place in the first half weakens the suffering that takes place in the second.

So I have to have Rachel in a place where the readers understand that she's been forced by her life into accepting unacceptable things, but still show the readers that she's capable of feeling pleasure and excitement and anger. In effect, Rachel's been brainwashed, but the book has shown too much of the wash and not enough of the brain.

So that's where things are now. I'm giving serious consideration to watching American Idol tonight so I can do yet another outline. You can get a lot of work done during American Idol, especially, if like me, you mostly watch it with the sound off.

I should be all right. Just as long as I can hold off the Simon Cowell flashbacks!


Sydney Lakewood said...

LOVE writerly posts!

Do you think Rachel could be strong in some other aspect of her life so that the reader's okay with her being a "victim" during the main story?

Elaine Marie Alphin said...

I really can't wait to read Hart, especially after reading this post. I adore writing talky scenes and flashbacks, too - perhaps we know something editors don't know! (Not all that hard to imagine, actually)

Susan Beth Pfeffer said...

Hello to Susan and to Elaine Marie Alphin-

For better or worse, I keep working at Hart. Every morning I wake up with a new plot twist, and then after a healthy of amount of dawdling, I try to work it into the original manuscript.

Thank goodness for computers!