Saturday, 26 November 2011
What Was I Thinking?
I couldn't abandon the 17th Century that easily, however, so instead of tackling a new wip, I have recently re-visited a manuscript that's been sitting on my hard drive for at least three years. I did what all the good author sites tell you - Read It As If You Didn't Write It - Suffice it to say, I gave myself an unpleasant shock!
From a reader's viewpoint, the story is still engaging, [Hopefully] as are the characters, [even more hopefully] but my style strikes me as simplistic and naive. By that, I mean everyone's speech reflects their actions, the story moves from A to B with no sidetracking to F or G, and the villain is a villain from the outset.
It's not grammatically incorrect, or even clumsily written, but all those extra details I imagined weren't needed are missing - like describing all my heroine's inner thoughts to the very last choked gasp when she is facing a situation which terrifies her? I assumed a reader would work that out for themselves.
I was wrong about that. For a reader to empathise with a character requires introspection on that character's part. It occurred to me that some people react differently in certain situations, and in an attempt to make my heroine stand out more, and live longer in my readers' minds, unpredictability can be an asset.
To make the novel into a better, deeper read where the characters themselves have more dimension than previously, I inserted reactions in some places which are contrary to the norm. For instance, fear reacted to by anger, violent defence and a sharp tongue instead of heart-thumping withdrawal.
However, the thought keeps intruding that maybe I'm kidding myself and I should leave well alone? That by these changes I am destroying a perfectly good story. Then I go over a re-written chapter and am convinced it really does sound much better. There is also the undeniable fact I have learned more in the last three years, specifically about cause and effect [thank you Ginger] showing not telling, making dialogue serve a purpose as opposed to being lighthearted chat which goes nowhere, and removing as many dialogue tags as possible.
My pace and story arc could use some work though - so this re-visiting an old file is proving to be fascinating, as most of the hard slog and 'what do the characters do now' work has been done already. I know how it ends, but I can make that ending more deserved, more emotional and maybe my readers will close the back cover with a sigh of satisfaction rather than reaching for the next book in the to-read pile.
An author can only hope.