Transition Girl

Why transition girl?... Best answered by a quote from the Iliad....."The soul was not made to dwell in a thing; and when forced to it, there is no part of that soul but suffers violence."

Friday, March 25, 2011

story telling

I slept in this morning for the first time in months. I actually can't remember the last time I did not get out of bed before the dawn yet this morning I woke up from an intense dream with only fifteen minutes to get dressed and get to my regular fortnightly massage appointment in time. The touch therapy is an important part of my routine - healthy body, healthy mind - and I've always taken the first appointment for the day at 8am because I am so used to waking up with the birds.

Must have really needed the sleep. Starting personal training with a Bristish ex-marine probably played a small part in this need. I feel as good as I have felt in months with every muscle in my body aching from the three work outs in seven days. It is good to feel alive and at the mercy of the scary intense bundle of muscle that has told me we are only getting started and he has so far been very gentle with me. Oh boy.

After getting some feedback this week from a second agent to pass on the second book, I started playing around with the opening scenes of the book again and now draft four has the biggest shift so far in editorial change. There is now a whole new opening to the book. I'll continue editing today because it is such a fundamental change though one that I think may actually work better because it focusses on the protagonist that is the critical character across the entire trilogy.

It is such a long way from where I started with the idea for this book, which was based on a dream I had a long time ago now. The star of that dream is now only one player, and a minor one at that, in the story. My female lead shifted to a male lead somewhere between the first and second drafts and now, on my fourth draft, I've completed the transition.

If you're curious about the recent feedback that led me here, the agent said I started the story in the wrong place, that I needed to step back a day or two so that I would not need to slip into backtracking mode and tell of (rather than show) events that happened before the start of the story so soon in chapter one (too soon in this agent's mind). The agent was right in a way though it is difficult to get the balance right in choosing the perfect point to start a story. It can never be truly in the beginning because otherwise every story would start at the dawn of time. (Aside: which is where I will be starting the prequel...)

You have to start somewhere. And it needs to be somewhere that intrigues a reader enough to make them want to continue reading.

I get a bit annoyed by the cardinal rule for good writing, "show not tell", sometimes. More so given the phrase story telling not only exists but is used to sell the idea of the gift as it is, as in "he/she was a great story teller". You never hear the phrase "he/she was a great story shower".

I accept that some description is important to help a reader's imagination fill in a picture. I do not accept that readers need every minutae described because they are incapable of figuring out things for themselves. (And yet I have had editors and agents saying so and I am appalled that they should assume such a dreadful thing - it belittles the reader.) Somehow a back story has to be weaved into the plot in a way that doesn't mean you are writing another novel within the novel. Sometimes telling rather than showing is the only way.

Besides, half the fun of a good story is just how differently readers interpret events. Where would the study of literature be without some wriggle room?


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