It’s the End of the Week as We Know It…

…and I feel (largely) fine!

This is despite the fact that – of course – my hubris has caught up with me again.

Ah, yes... she's coming! I, Hubris, will throw this pie in her big silly face and show her who's in charge around here! Image: wordswewomenwrite.wordpress.com

Ah, yes… she’s coming! I, Hubris, will throw this pie in her big silly face and show her who’s in charge around here!
Image: wordswewomenwrite.wordpress.com

I was supposed to start the querying process by the end of this week. You might remember I said so, in black and white, right here on this very blog. Putting things in writing here is sort of like creating a contract with myself, a means of shaming myself into doing stuff in a timely fashion. If I write it here, I have to follow through with it.

It works well, a lot of the time.

Not, however, when the book I want to query is undercooked, as ‘Eldritch’ definitely was – and, perhaps, still is. Although, I really hope not.

I’ve spent this week working through the book again, reading carefully, editing (6, 500 words fell beneath my ruthless blade!), fixing problems, keeping an eye out for things like ‘jumpy’ scenes – in other words, when reading something makes you feel like you’re listening to a CD skipping* – and something I tend to do a lot, I’ve noticed: writing unrealistic reactions.

What I mean by ‘writing unrealistic reactions’, of course, is having a character go completely nuts with rage when it’s, actually, a vast overreaction to the situation at that time, or say something which is logically unconnected to what’s gone before, or seem too calm when another character drops a bombshell of bad news on their head, or whatever it might be. I can’t really explain why I did this so often during the course of the book, particularly near the end, without even realising it; on this, most recent read-through, all these ‘clanging’ moments jumped out at me like samba dancers wearing neon headdresses, but up to this point I’d entirely missed them.

I think, somehow, it might go back to an age-old conflict in the world of fiction-writing: plot vs. character.

Take that, you bounder! Image: nancylauzon.com

Take that, you bounder!
Image: nancylauzon.com

I’ve a feeling what happened was this, or something like it. On the first few drafts, I was too busy getting the plot of ‘Eldritch’ out onto the page, unravelled, exposed, explained, resolved and told to focus sufficiently on keeping my characters consistent. This, of course, is a silly, silly thing to do. A book should rest on the shoulders of its characters. They should drive it, they should shape and mould it, their reactions should be true to their personalities (because, yes, even fictional people have personalities!); in short, a collection of things happening is a story; characters living through that story makes a plot. But, at all times, a writer must be mindful that their characters are the focus. People don’t (generally) act wildly ‘out of character’, unless they have an excellent reason – so, why would it be different for a fictional person?

If this is forgotten, what we have are wooden-seeming characters, who move about jerkily like Thunderbird puppets, waiting for a string to be pulled before they can take any action. If we have prioritised story over character, then it’s natural that reactions will be unbelievable and ‘unreal’, unnatural, and clunky. And, of course, this is not something which will go unnoticed by a reader. It will scream out from the page, and make a reader very unhappy indeed, and may even lead to them (gasp) not finishing the book. That, of course, is a nightmare scenario. I know, as a reader myself, that what I look for in a story more than anything else is characters so real I feel I can reach into my book and touch them, characters with whom I can imagine having a conversation (or a beer, depending on the book), characters who are fully rounded, fully realised and true to themselves, and who act at all times in accordance with their personalities and the circumstances in which they find themselves. So, it upsets me that as a writer, I should fall into the trap of prioritising plot over people.

The only good thing in this situation is, of course, that I’ve spotted my mistakes now, and not three weeks after I’d started querying the manuscript. I also know that the draft of ‘Eldritch’ currently saved on my various computer files and disks is a better version of the book than that which existed two weeks, even one week, ago; after it’s settled for a few days in my mind, I’ll go back to it again and make sure it still holds water. It’s by no means a perfect book, but I dare to hope it’s reasonably good. In its own small way.

And then. And then it’ll be time to send it away into the big bad world. I hope it doesn’t come back until it’s encased within covers.

*I’ve just realised how many people reading this will now be thinking ‘What an old-fashioned fuddy duddy stick in the mud! CDs? I don’t even know what they are anymore.’ Well, sorry about that. I’m a troglodyte.

13 thoughts on “It’s the End of the Week as We Know It…

  1. Kate Curtis

    Um… I still listen to CDs. People don’t still listen to CDs? You could have said ‘record’… I still have those too. I like to hold my music snd marvel at the album cover… 😉

    Anyway, it sounds like you’re on track. I wouldn’t say ‘no’ to a preview reading…

    Reply
      1. SJ O'Hart Post author

        :D! Kate, I think you’re sleep-deprived. Or something. 🙂

        I’ll happily send you a sneak preview, if my manager (i.e. husband) approves. 🙂

        I listen exclusively to CDs. I was going to say ‘records’ in the post, but thought that would really out me as an old-fashioned type. I would have records, if I had a record player. I’m glad I’m not alone!

        Thanks for your comments. And, most especially, for the laugh! 😀

  2. Maurice A. Barry

    When I get it the words will be encased within start file and end file code. Yes, I’m addicted to eBooks :>) and yes, I know it’s a personal choice. Some like the paper and some like the tablet and both groups have sound reasons. Hmmm…maybe I’ll summarize, starting with the ones that matter to me most.
    eBook
    1–I love to read in bed but the reading lamp annoys my wife. Now I read using my nexus 7 tablet (I used to have a Sony ebook reader but didn’t really like it because it needed bright light and, besides, it was unreliable. I also have an iPad but hate it as a book reader–too big and heavy) using Aldiko reader app and set to ‘night’, white text on back background. This is my main reason, just in case you are wondering.
    2–cheaper
    3–I like to have several books on the go at a time and this makes it manageable
    4–because I carry the tablet around in my backpack I can always show friends what I’m currently reading as well as what I’ve read recently.
    5–very easy to obtain what I want when I want it. Yes, I am spoiled.
    6–my house is small; very little room to store things like books that have been read.
    Traditional Book
    1–bloody work of art and collectors’ items

    Reply
      1. Maurice A. Barry

        The lead-in was that you said you hoped your book would be enclosed in covers and I was being a wise-arse saying it would be enclosed in file markers ’cause I’d be buying the eBook not the paper copy and my ADD mind just kept going…

      2. SJ O'Hart Post author

        *lightbulb goes on overhead with a ‘ping’*

        Aha! Now, I understand. 😀 I’m clearly having a slow-brain day!

Talk to me

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s