Thursday, February 3, 2011

Gong Xi Fa Cai! (Good Luck! Get Rich!)

The year of the Golden Tiger comes to an end, and the year of the Rabbit begins. (Probably Golden Rabbit, but I haven't heard for sure. Maybe it's the year of the Snow Bunny.)

So I wish you all gong xi fa cai (GONG shee FA sigh).

Today I got up at noon (yay!) and found that Snowmaggeddon was not quite as bad as advertised, but still within range. Had breakfast, exercised, went out and took pictures, even if nothing around our house was quite as visually stunning as it might be. (I was in snow up to my knees a couple of times though.)

And yes, that whole "through rain and snow and sleet and hail" thing? It's true. As I was out there a lone postal employee came plowing through the snow on foot, bearing only one small box -- a belated birthday present just for me! (A collector set of Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire movies!) So I am set for as long as this snow emergency lasts.

As for my work at home day....

It didn't go as planned, but it didn't go too bad. I got the opening sorted out for The Serial (you know, the book I'm not working on) and some clip art and cover inspirations for a bunch of other books (which I'm not working on), and, oh yeah, I figured out why I'm running in circles around the next scene in the book I am working on.

I have no idea what the real purpose of the next scene I was going to write is. I mean, I know in a practical sense. It's the next thing on the character's agenda, and it does some character development, and in a mystery every conversation has information it gets across. And sometimes you have a "color" scene when you want to change up the pace between exciting bits here and there.

But the real purpose of a scene is always transition. The characters go into the scene feeling or thinking one way, and come out different. The story changes direction with every scene. Sometimes a little bit, sometimes a lot.

And I realized that the scene I had next didn't really do that. It kinda drifted generally in a new direction sort of, but the scene after it is where things will radically change. I need to cut the scene before... and not only that, but I need to go back and deal with some things in the scene before. Because I had committed one other sin.

I burned my steps.

Here's what happened: Mick and Casey find a lot of suspicious things about the situation around them, but it's none of their business. Mick's uncomfortable with the situation, and that pushes him a little to act, but not really enough. The real push will come later. So his discomfort is a foreshadowing - a set up for things to come. Unfortunately I wasn't thinking of that, so I started pushing the suspicions on him until he was completely primed and ready to act.... and I was still a scene and a half away from the catalyst. Whoops.

That's what actors call "burning your steps." It's when you build up your emotions or drive too fast, and you're only halfway through the scene, and you have nowhere to go emotionally, so you just have to hang there in this wound up state until the actual climax of the scene comes.

So the first thing I have to do is pull back on the suspicions in the previous scene. They're there, but they're background noise. Mick is just uncomfortable. Then I cut the scene in question, and replace it with a real transition. Maybe one where he expresses his discomfort and decides to let it go. Then whap him with the catalyst. THEN I can freely have him start investigating and actively try to figure things out.

Mystery plots can be so difficult this way, because we're trying to hard to lay out all the clues, and make the timing of the various characters work out right, and all this logistical stuff. It's so easy to just let your character start investigating and drift from interaction to interaction. It's important to let these interactions affect your character. When a character learns something, his or her opinion changes. It may be that a suspicion becomes a certainty (and then later is blown away by evidence and dismissed) but there is emotional movement.

You could even say the character's world view changes. The character matures.


Gong xi fa cai. Happy Year of the Bun Bun, and I'll see you tomorrow with some discussion of taking the leap from the lion's mouth.

Yes, this is somebody cross-country skiing down our street.


Anonymous said...

Metal Rabbit

Maybe it's the shovels

The Daring Novelist said...

All I know is my little Golden Tiger (he's an orange tabby) is not ready to surrender his year. His rabbit toy has disappeared.