clues at the scene

clues at the scene

Monday, August 5, 2013

To The Bone

At left, a fillet knife for large Canadian fish. Wicked, no?

The purpose of this instrument is to remove meat from bone. This particular beast is an especially nice example because it folds and because the handle is covered in rubber material which prevents it from turning in your paw as you use it. Most knives won't slip out of your hands so much as twist when they are wet and oily from several fish. This example is a razor-sharp rock-steady extension of your hand.

I mention this tonight because I am preoccupied with separating the bones of a story - the skeleton of conflict holding it up - from the meat. I consider the meat to be the characterization, transformation, setting and emotional depth of the players on my page.

Eventually, the bones and meat will be almost inseparable in draft X somewhere down the road. For now, telling the story and having characters embroiled within the intrigue is a bit more distinct than is good for me.

I mention these things because I've not read of this sort of craft dichotomy in the myriad of "how I write"  volumes available. I've done it this way for years now perhaps because my first story ideas are "it would be cool if ..." and later I fill the stories with people and motivations sometimes in contrast to the initial concept.

No Country for Old Men proceeds for me in this fashion. I can almost see the assembly process. We have the drug shoot-out scene and a normal Joe finding a satchel of cash beside a dead Mexican. We have the cool killer who uses an unusual weapon chasing the money. We have the long term sheriff who is from a couple generations before now caught up in the new of border drugs and violence. We have  a nemesis for the killer in another killer who shares a background with the normal Joe protagonist.

Then, we turn to the characters and mold them a bit into the story. We color them with the setting, the tumult of their options, their choices. We cast them against the story. They're pinned to the bones.

We cannot help but try and eat it whole.

Be careful tonight. Try not to get anything lodged in your throat. You wouldn't want anyone to try and remove it with the fillet knife above...

I know you're writing. Mind the sharp edges.

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