I was pretty sure I had killed off all the mom characters in the book but I think I might have been a bit premature. I read something interesting in my notes last night. I was reading about flaws and one of the things I had printed out (I’m not near it now to get the quote exactly) said that the fatal flaw should be in direct opposition to the theme. I found that fascinating because as I played out what I first thought the theme was in my book it just didn’t work with the fatal flaw I gave to my MC. The initial theme was too vague; not focused enough. So I kept doing questions on the theme to spiral deeper and deeper and finally realized what the heart of the book was all about. And I realized I need the birth mom in order to help me do it.
She’s still dead, but she’s back in the book because I think he needs to find some things from her or of hers that will fuel his negative expectations in himself. There is much work to be done on the idea still. I need to think of what he might find of hers that I can mirror in some fashion into his world but it should be an interesting journey.
The grandfather? He’s still dead.
You know the theme before you start the book? I usually discover it a draft or two later, then go back in and make sure I layer ties to it. You do a lot more pre-writing than I do and I do a heck of a lot more than some writers I know.
I only know the theme of this book because it is one I have been working on for 20 years. And it isn’t that I am doing as much pre-writing as I am trying to let go of all the other versions in my head (and on my desk)so I am moving important things to keep to various index cards. When I started doing that I found more ways to use the cards and have used this week off to play with this new method of thinking about the book.
It’s not like anything I’ve ever written before. It is more plot driven. It has more layers. And it has a mystery to boot. So I needed to have a good idea of where I was heading with the story now that I am writer enough for it.
All the other versions are packed away now and I am only looking at my index cards and my computer screen.
Of course I go back to the dayjob tomorrow which means forward progress will be severely impacted. 🙂
I love index cards. I keep them on a notebook ring. Scene cards are color coded to POV, plot points to reach for are in white. Don’t forgets are on post it notes. <-:
A notebook ring? As in punching holes in them? I hadn’t thought of that. I’m playing with them on the table and then the main ones will go on a bulletin board – I think.
I only use one POV so my color coding (at least this time through) is for other things.
White for scenes, purple for snippets of the old book that I want to save, yellow for questions to be answered.
Whatever works for you. I don’t have room for a bulletin board or white board so I need something desktop. With a hole in the top left corner and the single notebook ring I can carry them with me if I’m working elsewhere. As I work through the scenes (I never create a card before I write the scene. If I do the scene goes sideways and doesn’t do what I think I want it to do) I keep chapter and page # in pencil along the top. Because those always change is subsequent drafts.
But when my editor needed to find a scene to send to the cover artist I had the cards, found the numbers and she excised and emailed the scene while we chatted.
When I work in single POV I change colors when I progress to a new section or act—usually 3/book.
The fatal flaw should be in opposition to the theme–it was this realization that helped me with a new WIP just recently. The plot was going nowhere, and I realized that the MC wasn’t being tested at her “fatal flaw,” and she needed to be. And her choice as a result of that test would reveal the theme.
That said, themes are usually unconscious (subconscious?) for me during the first draft, which I write by instinct. In later drafts I try to be more conscious of what I “planted” and add things to support the theme, while pruning out things that don’t relate to the theme.
Maybe I’m overthinking this or maybe I’m just too… too … (I hate to use the word dumb but that’s how it makes me feel) but honestly, I can’t wrap my brain around this 100%. I know that part of the problem is that I have had a basic idea of the theme for many years since there have been 20 versions of this, at least. Normally the theme would come into focus later.
It’s playing with the fatal flaw that started a lot of this. I want to make sure it will support the story and I THINK it will work but I guess I won’t know until I get back to the actual writing and leave the planning stuff alone.
This is just such a different way of working for me – I’m normally the kind of writer who just follows her characters around and see what they do.
Sorry for rambling. I’m just feeling a bit alone and lost in this journey and not sure what to do about it. Ah well…the joys of the literary life.
Sometimes when I get really stuck on this kind of issue, I try to let the character tell me what s/he needs to do. That’s the way I found the ending to a recent story.
The nice thing about writing is, you can try it one way, then try it another way. We get lots of “do-overs” if we need them.