clues at the scene

clues at the scene

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Charting - One Way or Antother

AT left, an copyright free image from wikicommons. This is a chart of Pedro Reinel from 1504.

This image is one of the finest on wikicommons. Image of the day back on '09.

One way or another we all make charts. This is especially true in re-writes for me.

I have a story in mind. I craft a working outline with instructions, bits of dialogues, a scene list.

I have some idea of the narrative arc that I want to employ and some of the specifics of the character interaction to portray.

Then, the prose drafts and a couple passes it seems to fit in all the bits that come in while the creative juice still flows in a new story. I always have ideas about new characters or new scenes int he early prose rounds so I include these.

I am usually just finding a story's center at this point. There is what I thought the story was about when I started the outline, then there is what the story becomes with these changes.

Finally, I'm down to a pretty round and readable draft.

 I have "the story" and this component with some of the edges rounded off is my first revision draft. Seldom does a story grow at this point. It shrinks, though.

At this point, I'm revisiting the story in a new outline looking precisely at the arc and the moment of revelation where my character is compelled to act differently than when we meet him.

This is the heart of it. Example?

Bad guys doing crime and one of them decides - against the wishes of the others - to rescue a couple kittens.

Melodrama, sure. It is illustrative here. No, I don't have kitten rescuing criminals. Cats sell, though. Don't put it past me.

After I know the actual center of the story, I can revise the narrative map of what I have that leads up to the instance and what to substitute to make the arc work. Likewise, more complication is needed after this point and sometimes I don't have it.

I don't like character arc where someone plays against type, everything is easy, and we head into the conclusion. Not good enough. I like to make characters reaffirm their conviction by experiencing a loss after revelation. Something changes and they must now endue a choice: their path of change or something shiny they want. I don't let them have both.

The girl doesn't meet them at the door of the plane. No happy-ever-after.

It usually comes down to having to re-outline and re-craft a good third of the existing prose.

It is also at this "uncorrected" stage that my manuscripts and drafts sit. There is a ton of work for me in this last bit of improvement before the detail language and craft of language edits.

I've been lazy. I can call a draft complete when in fact the story isn't yet the story I'll want to tell.

If your builder worked this way, your new kitchen counter-tops would never be installed. Hey, I've hired that guy!

I want to not be lazy. I want to be disciplined enough to see things through to completion. To me, it is the difference between avocational and vocational writing. Professionals finish - to the end. All of it.

Today, I'm your brother-in-law remodeling your kitchen.

With a little discipline and a couple story charts, I might be somebody you'd trust to do the job.

The chart helps. It helps you find the story you might not have recognized when you started.

We're all sailing to the uncharted shores of new-story-land.

Try not to fall overboard.

Not sure I can turn this thing around and find my way back.


Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Cats really *do* sell, ha. I riffed on that trope with a feral cat in my series.

I think you're finding your way really well, Jack. You're sticking with it, developing strategies to get the project where you want it to be. I love the way you figure out what the story needs and what *you* need to deliver it and then follow that course.

jack welling said...

We are what we do when it counts.

Cats: the literary device every story that sells needs.