Friday, April 17, 2009

My first major wrinkle in 'Arcane'

There is a rhyme and reason to writing books -- a certain baseline structure you must have to, well, help the reader suspend her disbelief.

There are some books where you can jump right into the story without explanation -- and that's really how you can tell good writing: If the author can fit in all the basics without making the reader feel like she is reading a resume, that's the ticket.

I've reach a point in the writing of my second book, Arcane, where I have now given the reader all of the cursory information she needs to really begin: name, location, personality tidbits and a taste of a back story. We've got intrigue, growing suspense and the hint of a mystery much more epic hiding in the coming chapters.

But, I've reached a wrinkle -- falling victim to a classic new-writer problem: the brain dump. Too much information too fast.

See, I (as a writer) want me (as a reader) to have all my possible questions answered while still leaving room for interpretation. This leads to jagged, branching writing where I take on too many topics all at once. It's also incredibly confusing for me (the reader) to process it all afterward. And the last thing I want to do is read while taking notes -- I gave that up when I left college, thanks.

Dialogue must feel organic -- and organic is messy and jagged and branching. It's haphazard, without rules and tangent-y. But no, I must resist! I need to prune, trim and harness the power of conversations to give only the information I know the reader needs to know.

But please, I can hear you begin, give me some damn context! Siiigh. Fine. But If you steal my idea, I'll hunt you down and make you wish you'd never logged on :)

In the separate realm of Enna, Drew has met up with a motley crew of characters that each have their own talent over a part of Enna. Each power is different and, in some cases, comes from different sources -- either within the person or directly from the magic. This is an important distinction, or, I should say, it will be an important distinction.

So, there are two branches of information here: the individual powers and the difference between the power sources. Back to the organic conversation discussion, the problem distinguishing the two topics is that Drew wants to get all the info she can get while everyone is gathered around and talking. She wants desperately to understand why the hell she's here in Enna and who are the people she's now being asked to trust. She wants to ask the questions -- and, as of right now, does -- while the others are readily willing to give up the answers.

But, is that OK for the reader, too? Will the reader, not being able to quite see Drew's path the way I can, be able to distinguish the details, or will they feel like it's just too much to process all at once? Should I dump all the information on the reader and main character during an intensely curious fire-side chat, or leave it up to each character to show their talents in various situations? Would it be better to have a small description of each up front, then delve deeper into the theory behind how it all works later?

Hmmm .... lots to think about. I believe that the final suggestion is the one I will go with. There is only a certain amount o f information dump that I can handle as a reader, so I'm going to try splitting it up within the next two chapters instead of plopping it too heavy and thick in the current one.

See, writing it out does help! :) Thanks for following me on my little journey. The payoff will come later, when I sign a copy of my published hardcover for each of you. Thanks so, so much.

Keep moving forward ...

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