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Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Gap Filling

Many writers, even non-outliners, purposefully move forward with the story, leaving all expansion, clarification, and enhancement of plot points for another draft or revision cycle. Sometimes I'll do that, too, but mostly my peculiar muse requires me to stop and add in those little "discovery bits" that crop up along the way. Yes, this slows me down, but as I have said many times, for me the very act of putting words on paper spurs new ideas. And this is not limited to forward writing, but encompasses these small rewrites, as well. As the insights that spur them often occur when I've just completed a scene and I'm assessing Where To Go Next, this is another way of kick-starting myself into the next scene.

Here are a couple of today's examples.

As I was glancing over my worldbuilding notes on magic, wondering if I made any mention of ghosts, [Did I mention we were going ghost hunting?] I reviewed my glossary of magical terms. When I was sketching out Sabria's magic, I made a distinction between a spell and a ritual. Spells are individual enchantments, worked according to a formula with certain particles (objects). Spells have a focus--the thing or person to be acted upon, a sphere of influence, a nexus or center of potency, and they are often attached to some receptacle - a carrier, so to speak. Ritual, on the other hand, is a combination of spells, often with multiple practitioners, bound together by an enclosure and designed for some great work: caelomancy or weather ritual, terromancy or earth ritual such as planting or harvest magic, or vitomancy - a healing ritual.

I had forgotten this (spell/ritual) distinction, and decided that the magical occurrence I wrote last week [yeah, that agonizing harbor scene] would certainly qualify as ritual and not a single enchantment. I had tried to complicate the magic so it could not be easily dissected by my investigators, but by recasting it as a ritual, its complications were inherent and needed less explanation. By rewriting two small paragraphs, I was able to simplify my aftermath, plus reveal more about the world. To make the scene work, I had to rechoreograph, which caused me to rework the emotional context of one character and eventually will allow me to throw suspicion on a character I want to be falsely accused of Bad Stuff. I don't have to devise yet another scene to do those things. Yes, yes, yes.

The second small rewrite occurred as I considered motivations and the old who-knew-what list. Early in the story I introduced a magical artifact, a spyglass which caused a fairly spooky reaction in those who looked through it. I'm not sure where this fits into my villains' plot - I just liked it. It was a prime mover in getting this secret investigation plot moving. In essence I am investigating this spyglass right alongside my fearless trio. Because I know so little, this is a plot device that insists that new material be written in as I go. What would a sorcerer do with this glass that shows him very ugly things?

He looks through it. He examines it carefully and discovers that it is not expertly made. And then he takes it apart. Inside he discovers a lensmaker's mark. And Portier intends to find out who made it. This, of course, forces me to think about who made it, and I realize that it was not the people I thought. It forces me to ask a question - "why aren't the villains tearing the place apart looking for this thing?" - a question which my investigative team had never asked. Ooops! And the thing is, once I went back and inserted the question, it had to instill doubt - which is a twisty plotter's reliable right hand. And once knowing who had truly made this thing gave me motives. Every scene is stronger if the participant's motivations are clear.

Now, back to ghost hunting...and now I know what we're going to find!

Making a stronger case - unraveling the spyglass mystery


Anonymous said...

I am investigating this spyglass right alongside my fearless trio.

I laughed over this because I do this all the time. Right now it's an entire world and what its existence means to different people. But I've done things like give a character 17 earrings because I thought it was cool and later have it unintentionally match the number of years his family member was missing.

This blog is going to be a great selling tool--I'm going to be banging on the bookstore door the day this book comes out!

Have fun at Pikes Peak, too. I'm going to be down there for vacation but not the con. :( Sorry I'm missing it!

carolwriter said...

I've done things like give a character 17 earrings because I thought it was cool and later have it unintentionally match the number of years his family member was missing

Oh, oh, don't you LOVE that? The subconscious is our friend. Sorry you won't be at PPWC - but vacation is good!