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.

Monday, February 6, 2012

*SPOILER*--reading this will ruin my dystopian novel for you, whenever it is finished and finally comes out.

I am not kidding about that. You have been warned.

Yesterday, moved large sections--chapters and series of scenes--around, trying to feel out how to keep this middle part moving along, rather than letting it sag into a puddle of smaller internal stories (the kind I like). I tried several different new orders just to see how it felt, but I think I ended up with something pretty close to the last general plan I made. Except now I see more threads that can be developed in the smaller internal story pieces to provide hooks and momentum.

I also had an important thought after shutting the computer off and going to bed, but didn't write it down so I forgot it. However, as soon as I started this post I remembered--which is one reason I do this blog, to keep the synapses greased so that ideas don't fade out, disappear, or get lost.

What I remembered doesn't seem like a big thematic issue, but I think it's a huge key to understanding how my ending needs to play out. It's also a huge key to the very-important thread of my Main Secondary Character--a key to knowing what points the MSC's scenes need to make and how they form an arc of change and realization for my MC.

I just jotted a vague and rough shorthand of this thought on a post-it, but the thought itself is important enough that, even though it's a spoiler, I'm going to write it here, too, to get it more firmly embedded in the thinking part of my brain and in my subconscious.

Spoilers start now.

The main reveal of the book is that my MSC is able to feel the emotions of other people. Therefore, his ability to pinpoint, identify, and verbalize other people's emotions enables my other characters to acknowledge what's really going behind their interactions (or lack thereof). This in turn allows them to recognize choices they didn't know they were making, or that were available to them to make.

This is especially important to my MC, who lives an extreme pressure-cooker kind of life. Some fairly early scenes (I've been uneasy about these because it's a little uncomfortable knowing people will be reading them) show him teetering on the edge of totally losing it. I've also already got some rough placeholders sketched out for the ending sequence where he really does totally lose it and goes berserk (those don't make me uneasy; I like those).

The reason he totally loses it is because he's pushed past his limits. No, scratch that--he's already living past his limits. What happens is that he finally gets completely shoved off the emotional cliff.

The reason he's been living past his limits is that, over and over again, he's had to make decisions when all his options are terrible and soul-scarring. The only way he's been able to handle it each time and stay functional is by just shutting down another part of himself and moving on anyway. Everyone in the book is like that, because they have to be--but since he's the leader he's done it most of all, and to an internally disfiguring degree.

I think his problem by the ending sequence, around the time he loses it, is that he's shut himself down and cut himself off so many times that he's hit the line now; he's on the verge of severing all connection to other human beings, and to his own humanity.

And I think the MSC is the one slender thread that offers my MC a road back to being human and having the things that are meaningful to him (the MC).

Why? Because the MSC can say, "This is how you feel," when the MC has been steadily according his own emotions less and less value. He's had to, because in practical terms they hamper his ability to think clearly when making decisions, and they are often dangerous to him and to the people he's leading. Most of his emotions have generally made his life hell. Still, he needs them if he wants to be a human being and not a survival machine.

So all through the book, as I continue working on scenes in the MSC storyline, I need to be mindful of the MSC's insight, of what he intuits naturally about people's emotions without even being aware that he does so, and of how that comes out in scene. And as everything else in my MC's life gets worse and worse--including his relationship with the MSC--this one thread of connecting with the MSC should steadily, quietly build. It probably needs to get to the point where the MC needs this aspect of the MSC, without even realizing that he does so.

Then, at the end, his final choice (whatever that may be) should probably reflect, or at least include, the realization and decision: I need this part of me, I want this part of me, and it's important enough that I am willing to _____ in order to have it.

I know I have previously traveled down a similar line of thought to all this, but now I "get" it in a specific and useful way--I get what it means in concrete terms, in terms of writing scenes and shaping the story.

And now that I wrote all this out, I see that I was wrong when I said it didn't seem like a big thematic issue. It is. It ties back to the whole "value of mercy" thing, and the violence-via-video-games thing, and the god and beast thing. So yeah, it's a big deal.