Hello, all! It’s been awhile since I posted here, and I feel a little guilty about that. Not a lot, though. You see, since I’ve been here last I have:
Driven 1800 miles and flown 1550 miles for book events
Given 11 large group presentations
Conducted 3 writing workshops
Delivered 1 keynote address
Virtually visited 3 classrooms via Skype
That was all pretty exciting, and more driving than I’ve ever done in my life. Thank heavens for Waze, my new favorite app! I’ve been all over the state of Pennsylvania – southeast, northeast, central, and southwest. The only area of PA I haven’t visited is the northwest. Anybody out in Erie want to invite me your way? (more…)
Yup. That’s me. Facing the climax of my WIP and wondering, “What’s going to happen?”
I know it makes me seem like the worst sort of pantster, progressing 5 months and 56k words into a story and still not knowing what’s supposed to happen in the climax. Believe me, I’ve been beating myself up over it for weeks. How can this story have any sort of cohesiveness if I don’t even know how the conflict will be resolved – or what form that resolution will take?
Luckily, I have the history of my other, published works to remind me that this is all part of the process and if I give myself the head space and time, I will work it out.
The climactic scenes of The Caged Graves came to me all at once in the shower one day, just as I was about to launch into a completely different climax that was, by comparison, lackluster and unsatisfying.
Entering the climax of The Eighth Day, I had no idea how the good guys were going to defeat the bad guys. They were out-manned, out-gunned, and about to be sacrificed at the top of a pyramid, for pity’s sake.
I expected the climax of The Inquisitor’s Mark to be an all-out, guns-blaring battle between Riley’s clan and the Dulacs. Instead, it turned into a battle of wits for the custody of Jax.
In The Morrigan’s Curse, I knew going into the climax that Jax, Dorian, and one of the bad guys would perform certain actions. But where this would happen, how to get them to that point, and what everyone else would be doing remained a mystery to me right up until I was writing it.
So, I guess it’s not so bad if the current plan for my WIP’s climax is: The Big Bad appears and wreaks havoc (of what kind, unknown). The protagonist learns something startling (this part, at least, I do know), and this ends up (somehow) being the key to defeating Big Bad.
I’ve been spending a lot of time with my scribbling notebook this month.
This is the place where I work out plot problems. Some people use white boards, some use index cards or Scrivener. For me, working it out visually and long hand is the way to go.
I hang on to my notebooks after the book is written. It’s reassuring to remind myself that, even with some of my most successful stories, I didn’t know what I was doing at the time but eventually figured it out. For example, here’s the thought process that led to me deciding who would rescue Riley Pendragon from his cell in the Dulac basement in The Inquisitor’s Mark.
Some lessons I have learned from my scribbling:
The obvious path is the least interesting. Complications and reversals make for a better story.
Cut the things that delay information getting to your characters and readers.
Whichever path provides the most pain and trouble for your protagonist is the one you want.
Sometimes I’m asking the wrong question, and that’s why I can’t move forward.
The thing I thought was going to happen next is the wrong thing to do, and my subconscious knew that all along, which is why I ended up in the scribbling notebook in the first place.
Earlier this week, I wrote a great scene in my WIP. One of my main characters witnessed someone who lived in her apartment building pass through a solid wall after revealing herself to be not human. I was thrilled with the way it came together. Then I went to write the next chapter … and couldn’t. The story came to a screeching halt as I realized there was only one way for my MC to react.
You might be thinking, “Terror is good.” But in this case, it’s not. My terrified character has every reason to flee from this situation and no reason whatsoever to do the things I need her to do in this story. She has no investment to make her investigate this “monster” further. I wouldn’t blame her for curling up in a ball and quietly having a breakdown.
Unable to go forward, I had to back up. Removing the event entirely didn’t seem like a good option. The story would just stall out without this scene.
The solution ended up being simple — although it took me 3 frustrating days to figure it out. If the strange person passes through a solid wall without revealing herself to be non-human, the situation changes drastically. What would you think if you saw someone pass through a seemingly solid wall? You’d think it was a trick, right? That there was some kind of hidden passage there.
A hidden passage gives my MC all the motivation I need to keep her digging into this mystery. Who wouldn’t love to find a secret passageway in their building? The “monstrous” nature of the non-human character can be revealed later, when my MC is too far into the adventure to pull out and curling up in a ball to have a breakdown is not an option.
Two paragraphs deleted in my previous chapter, and my story is back on track.
When’s the last time you had to back up? Did it end up being a simple change? And how long did it take you to figure it out?
I first encountered the terms ana and kata when reading William Sleator’s book The Boy Who Reversed Himself. (By the way, if you’re a YA science fiction/horror fan and you’ve never read anything by William Sleator, you should remedy that immediately.)
Ana and kata are the two additional directions available in the fourth dimension. See the chart below:
Movement that can be made in that space
Forward, backward, right, left
Forward, backward, right, left, up, down
Forward, backward, right, left, up, down, ana, kata
Fans of Madeleine L’Engle will no doubt associate the term tesseract with “a wrinkle in time.” More accurately, a tesseract is the 4-space extension of a 3-space cube (which is itself an extension of the 2-space square). The words tesseract, ana, and kata were all coined by mathematician Charles Howard Hinton in 1888.
A depiction of a tesseract
When researching dimensional vocabulary for my WIP, I also came upon this little chart, giving me trength, tarrow, and trong to work with.
Now, the trick is to pull all this geometry into an adventure kids will want to read. I’m going for a Doctor Who meets The Boy Who Reversed Himself meets Interstellar Pig meets 14. (I know that a “meets” statement isn’t very effective if the elements aren’t well known books or movies, but let me give you an idea of what I have in mind …)
I’ll leave you with one last picture: This is a diagram I created for my WIP. My story takes place at The Breach.