Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Write the Truth

And the truth shall make you fees. Or something. Yesterday, I went back and rewrote the first scene of Drivers. (BTW, I really like that Blogger now recognizes Command-I as a shortcut for italics on Macs.)

I wanted to add a little action. There wasn't any in the original, and I wanted the hero to do a little something heroic for his girl right off the bat. You know, to kind of foreshadow bigger things later and make people like him.

Here's the deal:  They both arrive in a foreign country on a private jet. They're among strangers, under armed guard, and doomed to die in a few days. The security guy at the airport lets Ash and two other men pass without so much as a metal detector scan, then announces that he has to search Zephyr because she has a violent criminal record. She's embarrassed and protests, since she was searched before getting on the plane and has been under guard ever since.

The problem now is that there's nothing Ash can plausibly do to rescue her. I tried to play up the conflict between Zephyr and her guards, then have Ash defuse the situation by insisting they search him too, and making fun of the security guy.

It was pretty meh.

I thought maybe I'd build it up more, so when Ash steps in it really feels heroic despite him not really changing anything. I thought about having him actually save her from the search. And it all started to feel like the original opening scene of In Memory that no one liked. Nothing felt right. It felt contrived.

Because it was!

So I settled on something completely different. I still have Zephyr in the same situation, but I don't play it up and make it more than it is. It's only a pat-down that no one else got, not a strip search or anything really bad. It's just an insult on top of everything else wrong in Zephyr's life—and everything else is much, much worse than airport security.

The truth is, to the helpless and hopeless, small victories don't matter. But it helps to know you're not alone.

Ash quietly walks back to join her. He doesn't do anything heroic—just nice. It fits his character, and it's not contrived. It's true.

It's not exciting. It's not action. I don't really know that it's a good beginning. But I like it right now.

7 comments:

  1. I think sometimes the smaller things can come off really well. Like it sucks EXTRA or something b/c of the person and background or whatever. Sometimes less is more and the number one thing that makes me stop reading a book (aside from major plot holes) is characters doing something out of character or people in contrived situations.

    It's SO hard isn't it?

    Also - your new background here ROCKS!

    LOVE.

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  2. Yeah, I had to throw away my first chapter. It was like an 8th draft. A 4th complete rewrite. I have been damned with the most frustrating writing method ever, though. It is:

    1. Write the story once.
    2. Realize everything is wrong.
    3. Write the first chapter again.
    4. Realize who the characters ARE.
    5. Write the story again.

    Repeating 2-5 ad nauseum.

    It's the only way I can do it. I don't really know who my characters are, specifically what they would do in their everyday life (which is a big part of knowing a character), until long into the rewriting process. Alas.

    But I did like you... I toned everything down. The backbone of the story isn't "OMG AN ACTION SEQUENCE." It's the connection between the guy and the girl. The action sequences are better for that connection, not the other way around. Since I have a very limited amount of time to establish stuff in the beginning, I had to prioritize.

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  3. Thanks, Jolene!

    Jaimie, that sounds just like me and IN MEMORY. Complete rewrite four is calling my name.THIS time it'll be right. That's what I said last time and the time before.

    I'm scared the same cycle will happen with DRIVERS. Part of me wants to send it straight out to beta readers as-is so someone else will tell me what to change. I don't trust myself to figure it out anymore. But alas, I still and always have to decide in the end. Maybe taking a few months off will help.

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  4. Oh, definitely send it straight out to at least a couple of people. Why wait? If it's readable, send it out! Then when/if you do rewrites, you'll feel backed intellectually. And that's at the very least -- at best they'll show you something you wouldn't have picked up on, something that will save you loads of time.

    This is something I realized when I realized the reason I was holding back was because "I wanted all my readers to have the best experience possible." Even my beta readers. So I wasn't letting myself HAVE any beta readers, you know? I was being my own beta reader. Insanity.

    I would send out mine right now, but the plot doesn't flow smoothly. I changed too much stuff at the end. So, it quite literally is not a book yet, not able to be read or understood.

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  5. Ha! Insanity? Maybe so, but that's exactly the way I think. Thanks for the advice. I'm gonna do it.

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  6. Ben- I'd love to read if you're looking for crit partners. kellybryson02(at)hotmail(dot)com. I'm in the middle of Jaimie's process described above for my WIP- love that step by step she gave. Thanks for your comment!

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  7. I haven't tried it myself (the sending it out as soon as it's readable bit), but it makes complete sense, and a perfectionist like myself needs to err on that side.

    When I was at a writing conference in April, after having two glasses of wine, a girl I had never met before just blurted that out. Out of nowhere. "You know what you need to do? When it's ready to read, just send it out. Don't wait. You want it to be perfect, but it won't be. Just send it out." And in my two glasses of wine fuzz, this was as good as divine revelation. I was speechless for a good five seconds. I think because it dawned on me that I had paid hundreds of dollars to go to this conference, and here the best bit of advice was being dolled out, uninvited, unexpected, from a girl I didn't even know.

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