Monday, August 22, 2011

Details, Details...

So, I've been working, when my job allows me the time, on my M/M scifi novel. (I will be so happy when I can say I've finished the first draft!) I have a fairly detailed scene list, so I know how the story will proceed from where I am (about three quarters through) and how it will end. Of course, I don't know all the details. I tend to discover them - or work them out - as I am writing.

I spent Sunday hammering away at a chapter in which Rafe rescues Dylan, who has been kidnapped to be the sex slave of the rich, powerful, secretly gay mayor of the city. (Bear with me! I know this may sound a bit hokey, but in the context of the plot, I think it's actually plausible.) Dylan's being kept at the mayor's isolated, glass-walled mansion high above the city. Rafe needed to get into the compound, which would obviously have stringent security, get into the house, and get Dylan out.

Most of what I did on Sunday was figure out how!

I already had the notion that Rafe would cut a hole in the glass. He's an ex-gang member and knows about burglary. But how would he get inside the lethal fence that surrounds the house? How would he manage to make it up to the third floor room where Dylan is being held in bondage? I'd already explained that the room was biometrically keyed, so that only the owner could open the door. And how would they flee together, once they'd been reunited?

When I started writing, I didn't have a clue.

I solved these practical problems by putting myself in Rafe's head. He looked around to see what options were available; I looked through his eyes, calculating right along with him. Along with him, I jumped at unexpected opportunities. Like him, I felt frustrated at times at the seeming impossibility of the task. Then I thought about Dylan, how much I (that is, Rafe) cared about him, and steeled myself to try again.

The strategy worked. When I left them, Rafe had successfully entered the house, found his lover, and released him from his bonds. I'm still not 100% sure how they're going to get away -- I had to suspend the action because they insisted on a love scene after they were re-united! -- but I have some ideas.

The experience made me realize how much harder it is to write a novel than a short story. Novels require ten to a hundred times more detail than shorts - and all that detail has to be consistent as well as believable.

In terms of word count, I didn't get much done in that session. However, I think I learned a lesson: the devil is in the details. And I found at least one method for dealing with the issue, although I'll have to wait for my beta reader's comments before I can really say that the approach was a success.

I'm interested in how other writers work out the nitty gritty mechanics of a scene. Maybe I can get some pointers!


Paul McDermott said...

I think you may have opted for a solution which I was going to suggest, because it works for me (many times over!)
I have a problem with "stroppy characters" who are VERY likely to "hijack" the plot of my yarns and go galloping off into the sunset - or at least, in a direction I hadn't planned!
But it can be turned to advantage if you let these critters 'have their head' because sometimes THEY will solve the 'mechanics' of a scene such as you refer to - in the scene you describe, I have a feeling that Rafe and Dylan will find a way to escape if you leave them to work it out for themselves!

Lisabet Sarai said...

Thank you, Paul!

I'm glad to know that I'm not the only one who runs into this issue.

Actually I love it when my characters suggest an unexpected twist. It doesn't happen all that often, and I think it usually leads to a better story.

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