clues at the scene

clues at the scene

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Wire and Canvas

At left, a lovely photo of the Sopwith Camel from the US archives - copyright free.

I'm in a rough draft (Not a NaNoWriMo but just a coincidental long form starting here in November).  It's a fragile little beast.

Oh, I like it fine. That's why I'm writing it. I'm having fun with the characters and events and playing fast and loose ...all of which will be sorted out in the next full draft.

Nevertheless, I'm telling myself the story and trying to survive the event. It struck me this evening as the foxhound/beagle snored how much this process is like taking flight in an old biplane. Snoopy the beagle was the mnemonic there.

If you look at the photo, this beast met only the minimum structural standards for flight. There is no redundancy in any of the parts. Should anything fail, the whole craft was lost much to the operator's disappointment.

The rough draft first-telling of the novel is the same. You're searching for handholds amoung the myriad of character actions in the attempt to bring the premise to life.

Some idea set you off: chickens are deadly when they explode. Now, you have an exploding chicken murder on page one, a reluctant detective, some contradictory evidence, a couple red herrings (called ex-wife and girlfriend's current husband), and then you are adrift. What to do? You blow up another chicken.

Bodies are good for stories.

Anyway, the point is that a first telling is a mission into the blue. You have an idea, a sketch, a premise, maybe even a solid character. You don't have a good idea of what is going to work. Your story is at risk.

I like outlines in the revision of the rough into draft number one. It lets me discard the pieces I didn't like and start the formal drafting process from a place of security. I'd like to say I can trust my outline for the very earliest germ of the story. I can't. I need to make a mess, then clean it up.

That's a fine theory of writing Andy J. taught me (he got it from someone else): make a mess, clean it up.

I wish I could remember the attribution. Have to run. I've lit the fuse on yet another chicken.

Mind your Sopwith. Check your six. The story is gaining on you. [ great name, eh? Sopwith.].

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