Monday, February 27, 2017

Lemme Explain. No, there is too Much. Lemme Sum Up.

As I continue (still!) to work on Doleful Creatures, my object in this revision is to do the opposite of what Inigo Montoya says.

I’ve got to explain. I can’t sum up. Or if I sum up, I have to make sure the summation is shorthand for something I’ve already explained.

I’ve got a representation of God in my story, but he’s called He Who Marks the Sparrow’s Fall. There is, obviously, some reverence attached to him by one of my characters. But I get to the reverence part, and I see there’s no explanation. Or at least one the reader will understand.

I have to remember that readers can’t read between the lines. They can only read what’s on the page. That won’t stop them necessarily from making inferences, but if I want them to go in a certain direction, I can’t lead them there on inference alone.

This reminds me of a few things:

  1. Always put your work away and look at it again with a cold eye.
  2. Levels of edit matter.
  3. One of my USU professors said something like this recently: Teachers sometimes screw up explanations to their students because the teachers rely too much on the shorthand of their own experience to answer the student’s question. If the student asks their peers the same question, they have levels of experience that are similar enough they often can connect with the right answer because they’re closer seeing eye to eye.

This is why I continue to resist the rush to self-publish Doleful Creatures yet. It is just not ready. But I’m getting it closer.

Back to Inigo: His summation works not only because it’s humorous, but because the reader/viewer has already seen in longhand what he’s summing up. It works to get Wesley up to speed – he may indeed have questions – but it also works to keep the readers up to speed because they’ve already seen these events unspool. The reminder works where it needs to. Had it come any earlier in the story, it would NOT have worked. But I’ve known for a long time that William Goldman is an excellent writer, who knows this stuff already. I hope he learned it by trial and error, as I am. He could conceivably be a genius, I will grant. I’m not, so I have to keep plugging away. Not that I mind. Because I’m learning a lot.

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