It was one of the nights that I spend with other parents who have also accompanied their children to ballet classes. Sometimes there’s conversation, sometimes we’ve brought something to work on, sometimes both. For me, it’s always both – I try never to ignore a nice chunk of writing time.
A new gentleman struck up a conversation. He’s a musician and was ‘scoring a play’. “A trivial thing,” he said. “Favor for a friend.”
I said that I was a writer and that I was working on the revision of my first novel. Surprisingly, he was interested in the process of composition as it applies to writing. I talked about flow, pacing, rhythm; and he saw it as very similar to melody, tempo and rhythm in music. I added that the concepts are generally applied to plot, but the best of us apply them to scenes or even sentence structure within scenes.
At one point, he looked over my shoulder at my scene notes and exclaimed, “Ah – but you’re playing a duet!”
Of course, I had no clue what he meant. “Excuse me?”
“Your notations here – main plot, secondary plot – it is a duet, is it not?”
I was astounded. Of course he was right. Each of my scene notes includes which plots and subplots the scene addresses. He saw immediately what has been nagging at me since the beginning of my outlining process. I knew that flow, pacing, and rhythm were not the complete picture for this story. And here, in this chance conversation, the last piece of the puzzle was nearly in sight. I had to know. More accurately, I was dying to know. How could I make the two plot lines play well together? So I admitted my ignorance and listened to his explanation of how duets are written.
Among other things (that went way over my head), he talked about varying the dynamics of the two parts so that within the framework set by the melody, tempo and rhythm; each part is written as softer (piano, mezzo-piano, pianissimo or pianissimo possibile) or louder (forte, mezzo-forte, fortissimo or fortissimo possibile) depending upon which part is in the lead, which is in the background and what mood is being set at each point in the composition. I was fascinated.
Then with great enthusiasm, he said. “You can compose for a trio of plots – a quartet even!” Apparently my expression gave me away because he patted my hand and said, “But please understand – for a first novel, a duet is quite brave.”
Brave? I didn’t have the heart to tell him that I hadn’t known any better.
#ROW80 update, 01/16/2011:
- Goal 1: Well I’d like to say that I’ve completed revision artifacts (outline, scenes and map) through chapter thirteen – but I can’t. One chapter got eliminated last week – but one got added this week, so I’m on chapter twelve. Still nine more chapters to go. Reading it critically, I could see that I had compressed the story. There wasn’t enough there so I added it.
- Goal 2: Averaged about three hours per day this week so doing better there. I had to really, because of the extra chapter.
- Goal 3 -Still posting!
Two weeks down…