Thursday, March 7, 2013

The Story Puzzle

You will be happy to know that I had a breakthrough last night.  I was revising the chapters and plodding along with my outline when it suddenly hit me.

The main character is talking throughout the book about this major event in his life that has really affected him, but he only talks about it.  What if I redid the first chapter and we experience that event with him?  Then we can be as affected as he is, and his later interactions and difficulty getting through it are that much more impactful on us as readers as well.

It was like a piece of the puzzle finally came together.  The chapter literally flowed from my fingertips and it made the succeeding revisions that much better because we had seen and felt the same things he'd seen and felt.  We were there, on the emotional map with him as it were.  And it colored the perception of the story's events.  It made it better.

Stories are like a puzzle that we have to fit together.  We have the characters, conflict, and setting that have to be balanced, but they also have to fit.  It's a fine line for sure, but once you're on it, it's an exciting line.  And I'm totally excited right now.

David Farland gave a great Kick in The Pants Entry about Story Puzzles.  It's well worth the read.  And with my experience over the past while of frustration when my puzzle wasn't coming together, it feels great to finally feel like a master puzzlemaker.  The conflict is working.  My characters are awesome.  And my setting  seems perfect. And I realized finally that my story puzzle is beautiful.

Do you see stories as puzzles?  What do you do to work things out in your mind so the puzzle comes together?


Debra Erfert said...

I rewrote the first chapter of Snowdrift and started from an earlier point in time. Where, before, I had the main character only telling the other MC about what happened, after the rewrite I had the readers following the character through her short journey and crash so they would be emotionally involved. Does that make sense? It was like what you did. You let your readers experience the trauma along with your character instead of just listening to the complaining afterward. I believe it is because of this rewrite that Snowdrift won 1st place in the ANWA BOB (beginning of book) contest, general fiction category. (I know I told you this before, but I'm braggin' here ;D )

I'm glad you broke through your writer's/plot block. I know it will be a great and exciting book. I'm sure your critique partners will be biting at the bit to read it, as well as your many fans.

Jon Spell said...

But it's not a prologue, is it? ;)

I don't know what happens, but I humbly offer a chapter title for you: "Colby Shredded"

You're welcome.

The more I learn about the writing craft, the more I think it's like building something with Legos. You can build the same tower as anyone else, but yours will look way different! Maybe you use some of the same colors, but in different patterns, or no discernable pattern. A simple tower is not my style - there has to be something unusual, like wings or wheels, or a hollow center.

The point I'm approaching is that if I need the building to be taller, I can just take the top off, add a few more layers, then set it back on. =)

Debra Erfert said...

"Colby Shredded" *groans loudly*

Julie Coulter Bellon said...

Colby Shredded. HAHAHAHA!! *falls off chair laughing* Nice one.

I like the Lego tower analogy. I might use that in my Sunday School lesson. :)

Debra, I'm so excited for Snowdrift! Sounds like we're running parallel writing lives these days. :)