Warrior. That’s what the Cowardly Lion is in comparison with me last week. I’d been hiding from my manuscript since that Monday. More than one hundred pages into a four hundred page rewrite, and I choked – scared off by this one scene. I had outlined it, decomposed it, and placed its elements in my scene table; so I knew exactly what had to be done. But…reveals and irony and subplots – oh my! Could I possibly have made it any more complicated? In this scene, one subplot is in denouement, one is winding down, another is in exposition and the last one is slowly ramping toward its climax. But wait! There’s more – dramatic irony is being installed, and the heroine learns a couple of jaw-dropping facts that had never even been hinted at in her version of reality. A turning point of the story, it had to be deftly written – or it would kill any interest in the rest of the book.

The bar was set so high – for me, anyway – that I backed way up to get a good look at the height before attempting to clear it. Then…ooh – look a forest of distractions to lose myself in. Of course, I jumped at the chance to get away. I finished and posted a character sketch of the main antagonist. I had been avoiding it because he’s not likable and I didn’t think it fit on my blog. Once I patted myself on the back for going ahead with it, I went back to the story and included foreshadowing and subtext for the problem scene in earlier ones. Then I found lots of non-authorly diversions. Movies and dancing and games – oh my! The week flew by and I still hadn’t faced writing that scene.

But…it was hard to enjoy having fun (yes, that’s what I meant) with the scene continually gnawing at me. So this week, I made myself attack it. I jumped right in without the slightest idea of how I would get out. To my surprise, instead of finding the job way over my head, I found clarity. A single writerly truth that experienced authors already know: No matter how much there is to show, it can only be shown linearly. Then I saw the pattern. What worked for the scene was to show the subplots, dramatic irony and reveals in the order that placed the most emotional tension on the heroine. Duh… So that’s how I wrote it. It has taken a fair few iterations to get it just right, but now I’m happy with the way it reads. Whew…no easy button for that one. On to the next…

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8 Responses to It’s Complicated…Or Is It?

  1. Shelli says:

    Hey, I do that! I’ve learned that when I’m avoiding my WIP, it usually means my subconscious is hashing out a problem for me. It usually happens during a clutch scene, like you’ve just described. If I honor my aversion, I have a similar experience to yours. If I push it, it ends up awful on the page. 🙁 Which is perfectly allowable if it’s a rough draft!

  2. CathrynLouis says:

    Hi Shelli, thanks for stopping by and sharing your experience. Nice to know that I’m not the only one. Have a great weekend!

  3. Sam says:

    Good post! I just went through the exact same thing. The blank page felt very scary but it’s always so much easier to see the problems when you have a first draft to work with…and usually there are less problems than you thought!

  4. CathrynLouis says:

    Hi Sam, don’t you just love it when things turn out that way? 🙂

  5. Shari says:

    I really like the way you think – I’ve finally started to understand story structure (from the writing end)and when you discuss mechanics and what does/doesn’t work, it’s good education for me 🙂 Glad you got it sorted – so hard to move forward sometimes!!!

  6. CathrynLouis says:

    Hi Shari, thanks for visiting – and also for the compliment. Glad you found the post useful. I’ve been working on this story for so long. This obstacle had me scared for a while. Feels good to be past it.

  7. K.M. Weiland says:

    I’m coming up on very possibly the scariest scene of my entire book – and I’m not feeling very warrior-like myself. My characters are behaving very, very badly and I’m cringing at the thought of writing some of the things they have to do. Most readers will probably find the scene relatively tame (it comes to an argument between two leads, really), but I’m dreading it. I love these people, and I don’t enjoy seeing them heading down the wrong paths. But the book must be finished, so, like you, I will persevere!

  8. CathrynLouis says:

    K.M., I’m sure you will persevere and the scene will be far better than you think!

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