Fictional logistics

I am in the middle of a logistical nightmare.

I’m working on chapters 16 and 17 of unnamed novel #2. There are only nineteen days left to figure out the title…but that’s another topic. 🙂

Chapter 16 is the beginning of the climax of the book. There are two critical scenes, one leading to the other. Both scenes are logistically challenging – right now I think the first scene is the hardest, but we’ll see if that’s true when I get to the second.

The first draft of chapter 16 was written from one character’s point of view. When I reviewed it I realized this scene would be much stronger if I changed the viewpoint character. Now instead of merely seeing what happens to that character, you get to read about how he feels, both physically and mentally. It’s a great change, but that meant I had to rewrite everything from his perspective. Easy peasy!

What was not easy was trying to add more depth and emotion to this scene while managing to keep track of all four characters, the very important thing they are squabbling over, making sure that the conversation was realistic (for example, an upset character wouldn’t sit quietly while others talk/do things), keeping the emotional tension and stakes high, all while adding in more sensory details and description, and on top of all that keeping track of where the dog was and what he was doing. Suffice it to say that this is a lot to manage.

Fortunately I went through something similar with my first novel, so I know I can do this. With that book, I remember being immensely frustrated because I had to keep track of where everything was in the room while juggling four characters and keeping the tension high. I changed some key details several times until I got everything working together. For example, I initially had the bad guy tie someone’s wrists with masking tape. I totally thought that would work until a friend read the manuscript and pointed out that no self-respecting villain would use masking tape. Oops.

With unnamed novel #2, I – fortunately – don’t have as many physical details to keep track of. This scene is set on a beach, so as long as I can keep straight things like which direction the ocean is, tracking the things in the scene is pretty easy. The characters are a different story. I have four characters who are all talking at various points of time, and now that I’m thinking about it the dog should at least growl once. For example, I might have characters A and B arguing, then C jumps in, and then D says something to A. OMG. It’s really tricky to get all the dialog/physical descriptions to flow together. Is B walking while she’s talking? Are her arms crossed? If her arms are crossed, is she really going to leave them crossed for the entire conversation? Would a normal person do that? And how many times in one chapter can you use the word ‘sand’ without being annoying? They’re on a beach, after all.

The next scene only contains three people (no dog) so in comparison it feels like a breath of fresh air. We’ll find out if that’s really the case.

The other thing that’s frustrating is that it takes a while to get all of these details to fit together smoothly. I’ve done this before, so I know that even though everything feels clunky now, it will work by the time I’m finished. But it’s hard to not focus on how rough some parts are at the moment. And, of course, because it’s so challenging, procrastination is even more appealing than normal.

Fortunately I’m almost done with this pass through chapter 16, and I can tell that the next pass will be significantly easier. Whew! There’s still a lot of work left, but the basics are in place, and editing this scene will be much simpler once I’m done restructuring.

2015-12-26 Dakota Ridge

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