Saturday, February 23, 2008

Roots in Story

Lately, it seems like the middle is not so much a sagging mess, but my honeymoon phase. I'm well past the halfway mark (at least according to word count ... please let the word count work out this time), and although I'm officially in the middle, I'm mired in the beginning.

See, every time a character makes a choice, every time a new little tidbit pops up and happens, I feel the need to go back to the beginning and make sure the motivation, the foreshadowing ... the root is there.

You know the adage that says if there's a gun in chapter one, it must go off in chapter five?

I think the inverse is also true. If you have a gun go off in chapter five, it's more powerful if you plant it in chapter one.

And when you plant the gun is important, too. If you plant the gun a few pages before, it's not as powerful as if you plant it chapters and chapters before.

Sure, it'll work, but ... it's too handy, sometimes.

Every little tidbit at the beginning promises something. I think of the beginning as a microcosm of the whole story, in a way. All the roots must be firmly entrenched in the beginning.  I don't like roots in the middle. They feel planted; they feel too handy.

So lately, as I write, I go over and over and over the beginning, making sure the story logic holds up.

My ending is the same way. As I write, I make little notes on little tiny threads that will give the story that "completed" feel.

I still write beginning to end, but as I go, I have to edit and tweak the beginning so much, that if feels like by the time I get the beginning polished and finished, I'm already writing the end. And as I smooth out the middle, I'm tweaking the ending to make sure each root has a parallel stake in the ending.

And as I write the ending, I'm going through the  middle, making sure the ending has well-planted roots in the middle. And as I go through the middle, I'm looking for roots in both the beginning and the end.

My process has just recently gone weird on me. I don't really know what to make of it. I feel like by the time I get done with beginning, I'm writing the end. And I miss the middle.

I love the middle.

I guess I've stopped looking at my stories so linearly, but have been seeing the form from a bird's eye view. It's so different, I'm still a little weirded out by it, I guess.

Has your perception ever shifted like that? And do you take the bird's eye view as you write, or later, in the revisions? Speaking of which, how do you manage to hold it all in your head, and see the whole thing at once?

11 bonus scribbles:

Edie 2/23/2008 10:55:00 PM  

Spy, I'm weirded just reading this blog. It sounds complicated! I don't smooth out as I go. I plan to pick up those threads during my revision. That's why I don't send my CPs chapter subs until I've done my first revision.

It's tough seeing the bird's eye view for me. I do like foreshadowing, but lightly, so the reader doesn't see it coming. The best kind is when the reader is surprised, but at the same time thinks: "Oh yes, this is perfect!"

Anonymous,  2/24/2008 01:53:00 PM  

I do not give meaningless critiques, what I say I honestly mean. If i didn't like it I wouldn't say I did.Just because I LOVE YOU oesn't mean I would hold back the truth from you and get you embarassed and allow you to submit something that wasn't what you intended.Sooooooooo there!!!

Karen Olson 2/24/2008 02:30:00 PM  

Hate writing the middle. Because it seems so BORING and POINTLESS. But in a story, we must have a middle, and I flounder through it until I finally start writing THE END. Once I've got it all down, I go back and rework so it feels less disjointed.

spyscribbler 2/24/2008 02:46:00 PM  

Edie, it is SO hard for me to see everything. I feel like I need to see the whole thing at once, to hold it all in my head, to graph out all the interconnecting threads.

But my brain feel feeble, LOL.

spyscribbler 2/24/2008 02:47:00 PM  

That is not you, is it? It can't be!

spyscribbler 2/24/2008 02:51:00 PM  

LOL, Karen. Really? I guess I can see how the ending is really the point, and the beginning is the setup. So the middle is sort of just watching the steps.

I love the middle. So much happens there! All the meat!

spyscribbler 2/24/2008 03:46:00 PM  

Holy crap, it IS you! How did you get online???

Hey, everyone, that's my DH. Isn't he the best?

Call me tonight! I miss you like crazy!

Anonymous,  2/24/2008 03:47:00 PM  

Yes its me, way in the aleutian islands of alaska, waiting for the fish that aren't showing up...LOLOL

Bernita 2/25/2008 08:32:00 AM  

Yes! YES!
I do that.
I do feel the threads and roots have to be there and I do go back and make sure they are.

Angie 2/25/2008 09:38:00 AM  

I agree -- the reveal feels much more powerful if the roots were there right from the beginning, even if they were just thready little tendrils. Planting the "root" of an event in the previous chapter makes it feel like it's something the writer came up with at the last minute. Sometimes that works, or is adequate, but I think the more significant the event, the deeper the roots should be to give the event the weight it needs. [nod]


Melanie Avila 2/25/2008 10:38:00 AM  

I just finished Stephen King's On Writing last night and he makes that same point about the gun going off in the fifth chapter. Right now I haven't decided how my story ends so I'm actually looking forward to writing the middle!

Oh, and the book has really motivated me to keep at it.