The reasons for this blog: 1. To provide basic author information for students, teachers, librarians, etc. (Please see sidebar) 2. I think out loud a lot as I work through writing projects, and I'm trying to dump most of those thoughts here rather than on my friends.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Worked on former GN today; may be able to work more later, but I'm not counting on it.

I was thinking more about the sample and how I moved the timeline around. If that actually works--if it's readable and smooth and the time jumps don't lose the reader--it does a great favor to the ms as far as pacing and tension. What it looks like right now is this:

1. Present time:
Intro MC
Set scene
Set her problem (boyfriend dumped her; she's sad)
End mid-scene on a conclusion the MC draws about emotion
Break (white space)

2. Flashback:
Start with general explanation about emotion and relationship with boyfriend
Move into scene where MC was dumped
End on action.
Break (white space)

3. Present time:
Set scene again, in very first line.
Scene picks up essentially where we were before flashback.
Stay in scene, hit the plot points and the hook (dead body!).
End chapter.

So what I'm wondering is whether there's something to take from this and apply to my swordfighting ms. I think that ms might work okay the way it is now, but it doesn't snap, crackle, and pop. It's okay...but I wonder if there's a way to have my cake and eat it too. I wonder if there's a way to keep the hook-y first chapter that threw me totally off course because it wasn't at all tied to the emotional story. Is there a way to somehow mess around with time so that the reader gets both hook and backstory at once?

One problem is that the swordfighting ms needs to be accessible to slightly younger readers than my upper YAs. That makes jumping around in time harder to do. Hmm. Double hmm. Plus it's one thing to have a single flashback, but what if the backstory is just as big as the present-day-hook-y story? Hmm, must think about structure and format.

I remember reading Rats Saw God a long time ago. Some other people I knew had read it and liked it, but others didn't because the time changes confused them and they found it hard to keep up. I believe--too lazy to go look--that past and present were indicated by dates at the beginning of diary sections (or whatever they were) and also by font--perhaps italic vs. regular?

I had no problem reading RSG, because I knew ahead of time to take a second to reorient myself at the beginning of each section. Obviously you can't count on readers knowing they need to do that--or even being willing to; it is asking a bit much to require them to work at reading your book. So...can you make the ms do the work for them? What if you make it blindingly clear that the reader needs to reorient? Can you smooth time jumps by upping the clarity of your clues? You can change fonts and put a heading. But I'm thinking maybe you could pretty much force them to reorient if you use stronger means. Like spelling out the headings--for example, instead of putting a date, put "From So-and-so's diary."

Or...instead of having a break and font change, you could start a new chapter with each font change. For good measure, you could also title the chapters with a clue/indicator.

You could even go so far as to stop, have a page with just a heading/title, then pick up with the time jump on the following page.

But the real question is, can this work without screwing up the pacing, without losing tension, without coming off as jerky and disorienting?

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