Monday, September 17, 2007

3rd Chunk Reviewed by SFF

My wife, SFF, has finished reading the 3rd Chunk of the Secret Project. If I haven't said before, "Chunks" are just large packageable installments of the book based on significant events, in this case Silas going from St Louis to leaving New Orleans. The 3rd Chunk ended up being as big as Chunk 1 and Chunk 2 put together.

OBTW, the working title is "Overboard".

So anyway, SFF finished reading the 3rd Chunk of Overboard and, as usual, had some very constructive criticisms. Some of them I was already conscious of - not going deeply enough into Silas's remorse, for example - others were surprises, things I had to explain to her and, obviously, if I have to explain them verbally I haven't conveyed it well enough on the page.

Some positive things she said in a general way was that it was very much holding her interest and the characters had gotten much more rounded in this third section.

An insightful observation she made was that the protagonist (Silas) had changed a lot from the 1st Chunk, but not necessarily in a way that was consistent with the character as originally presented. Certainly characters have to grow and change - is there a good novel where they don't? - but she thinks (and I agree) that a character can't change into something he never was or never could be.

Here's the deal: I originally envisioned Silas a certain way and initially wrote him that way. Then, as things have progressed, the orientation of the novel has changed and my perception of Silas and the way I'm writing him as changed. Some of it is growth within Silas himself, but much is due to my external-to-the-character-and-narrative perception of him. So......I can see that when the Great Re-Write (more on that later) occurs, I need to completely and fully address which Silas is going to be on stage for the whole novel - the prototype Silas of Chunk 1 or the evolved Silas of Chunk 3.

Which leads me to my next cogitation: Certainly a big part of the change in him is the natural growth of the character, which is good and must be kept. By the time I get to the end of the book's rough draft I'll know Silas hugely better than when I started, and significantly better than I do now, so when the Great Re-Write starts I can write him as I know him to be, BUT I'm suspecting that it will be difficult not to present the "finished" Silas at the beginning of the book.

Clear as mud?

In paragraph 1 of Chapter 1 of the finished book I can't present Silas as I've come to know him to be in the last paragraph of the last chapter- he still has to go through all the growth and changes that the storyline causes in him. I will kind of have to say to myself, "I know how Silas is deep down, so, once again and with truthfulness and feeling, what is THAT Silas going to be like when he starts out BEFORE all this stuff has happened to him?"

If I can do that, then the inconsistency that SFF has spotted in the rough draft should go away. Silas will grow and change but it should all be believable, because its consistent with the inner, basic character.

Two last thoughts/observations:

One is something that popped out of my mouth as we were discussing some details that have been lost in the shuffle, some plotline points I've missed, etc and I said that this whole process has been "mind expanding". Wow, what a lot of work and mental effort a novel is! I've read thousands and not even come close to fully appreciating them.

Second is that although I've not received fulsome praise from SFF - not that I was expecting it, as I said she's a straight shooter - I was noting her body language as she read the 3rd Chunk. When she's very into a book she holds it closer to her face, inclines her head more, kind of rounds her body to it. If its a book that's not holding her attention its held further away, she's leaned back, etc. Her body language in reading Overboard has been getting to be more like the first kind. :)

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