One of the things that I have been struggling with in my first draft is long narrative passages that explain the back story – the context to what is happening in the novel. The folks at Barbara Kyle’s workshop (see November 10th post below) had lots to say about this – gentle, kind indications of how bored they were by the telling narratives that appeared in parts of my first twenty five pages. At first I thought – just turn these into dialogue, that will make the issue go away.. Then I read the first one that I did – still boring.
I could not stop thinking about this – while driving, on the trains, in meetings instead of listening to other people. On the train, I diverted myself from these thoughts by reading Donna Levin’s “Get that Novel Written”. The chapter on plots helped bring this conflict to a resolution. I realized that subplots were the tool that I needed to structure my back story, and bring it to life. All I needed to add were the right characters to the subplots. Now all that I am thinking is all about characters – who are they and how do I keep them limited to the work that they need to do for me in the subplots? How do they help move my main story along? Donna talks about the “Plotting Elves” in her book. They have just visited me. Now I just need to find some Character Gnomes. With the help of these Elves and Gnomes, I hope to get back to writing.
Donna Levin, “Get That Novel Written”, Writers Digest Books, Cincinnati, Ohio: 1996 – (The first two pages of a Google search today did not generate any “gotta share” results – just indirect references to her books.)
Originally posted on November 13th, 2008