Kathryn’s post today is part of the “All the King’s Editors” series, in which WU contributors will edit manuscript pages submitted by members of the larger WU community and discuss the proposed changes. This educational format is intended to generate useful comments on what changes work, which may not work as well, and in either case, why.
The posts will appear on WU ~twice monthly. Each participating editor will have a unique approach, and speak only for him or herself. If you’re interested in submitting a sample for consideration, click HERE for instructions.
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Today’s submission is an excerpt from a second chapter. What happened in the first? I haven’t a clue. Has our point-of-view character, Luna, already set a story goal, and is she pursuing that goal in this chapter? I don’t know that either, although more explicitly goal-oriented behavior for Luna in this scene would (and should) clue me in. Clarifying the characters’ scene goals, and looking at how doing so can fuel higher octane writing, will be the focus of this developmental edit.
The main action in this opening is driving. The driving is not complicated by any story-relevant obstacle, so the action serves no purpose except as a container into which the writer can dump the character’s thoughts. This is a familiar part of the creative process: the writer casts around inside her character’s head for story motivation. The emotions she uproots are like an author’s note to self: these are the emotions that should drive the scene to come.
In order for the scene to grow in power, the author must go back and rewrite to make sure it is her character’s goals and motivations that are driving the scene. This is an important distinction. Story works because your reader bonds with your protagonist through her goals and motivations. Once it’s clear what Luna wants, we’ll orient to the story in a way that allows us to say, “Oh, Luna will love this” or, “Uh-oh, it’s not going so well for Luna right now.” Her desires allow our heartbeat to connect with hers, creating the all-important psychological tension that keeps us turning pages.
These explorations were clearly an important part of the process for this writer. While she stopped shy of determining what Luna wants by going to see Nico, she came up with some images that can be used to better advantage, such as the sunset and Luna’s concern for her appearance. She determined that Luna is having a tug-of-war between her head and her heart (or perhaps her mind and sheer sexual desire?—as yet unclear) in these pages. That’s good internal conflict, so let’s explore how we can externalize it so the story will leap out of Luna’s head and play out in scene, where it belongs.
Since we do not need to watch Luna drive in order to believe she got to her new location, I’d cut the entire first page here—all of the material between the red brackets, and above the asterisks I inserted to mark the suggested beginning.
As written: [Read more…]