So I spent a good chunk of this week researching equilibrium, bicarbonate of soda, and goats.
A first draft is really just getting stuff down on paper and sorting it out later, but if you’re throwing in details like “She can see blood on your hand if you’ve killed somebody,” eventually you’re going to have figure out WHY she can see blood. Or why does he make the air around himself warmer and she make it cooler? And then there’s the fact that he’s the Devil, which is was the starting point of the premise and which I’m battling in every scene now. I am so not a Devil-as-hero writer (that would be Krissie). So I don’t need to know everything in the discovery drafts, but at some point, I’m going to come up against a story move that means that I have to back off and consider the whole world of the story in all its glorious, messy detail.
This is the world building problem that Salpy was talking about in the comments to the last PoI post:
“Isn’t this exactly what you’re supposed to do, though, when you world build? Take your premise to its extension and see if it still holds up? And if it doesn’t, start plugging in the holes!!”
Well, yes and no. Your first job as a storyteller is to tell the story. Building the world is important, but not nearly as important as plot and character and theme and all that good stuff. You’ve probably read stories that were completely realized worlds and not much else. You can’t prioritize world-building, it’s always in service to your story. BUT . . .
If the world doesn’t work, if there are inconsistencies or plot holes or questions that throw your reader out of the story, then world-building becomes vital to story and moves to the top of the first draft to-do list.
So I blithely created a heroine who’s always cold and a hero who gives off heat because . . . because that’s what the Girls in the Basement sent up. Keep writing, don’t look down, worry about that later. And he’s the Devil but he’s human. And dead. And a rogue demon built an island as a hellgate because . . . I dunno, but whenever I type “rogue demon” I think of Wesley saying, “I’m a rogue demon hunter,” and Cordelia saying, “What’s a rogue demon?” And I wanted a Macbeth plot, the hero and the heroine crossing in their arcs. And . . .
Crap, that’s a lot of stuff. So I’ve been thinking (and not getting blog posts up on time, sorry about that).
For example, Nick’s going to become alive again, but not because he’s with Nita. There has to be a reason some force is making him vulnerable and human again, and I’m not a fan of LURVE as scientific method. Psychologially, just being back on earth again after 500 years is going awaken memories, so I’m good with him glomming on to the illusion of physicality–enjoying food, touching people, etc. But I also need him to evolve from keeping the illusion of having a human body (since his is a skeleton mouldering in the grave) to actually having a human body so that when he gets shot again, this time he bleeds. I know he’s going to think it’s the antagonist doing it to him, but I’m not sure that’s it. So I can plot his character arc as he becomes human again psychologically with a physical arc as he gains a body again, but until I know why the hell that’s happening, I can’t really use that to plot. More than that, until I know HOW it happens, I don’t know how this world works as far as living and dead.
And then there’s Nita. When she shakes hands with (touches, really) people who’ve killed someone, she can see blood on their hands. The easy way out is that she’s psychic, but that doesn’t tie it to the overall plot, which means it’s not going to work. This is a story about demons and alternate dimensions, but this power she has is nothing to do with that, she’s just psychic, too? No. Unity dictates that it has to be all of a piece, along with the fact that she’s cold all the time.
That’s the push-pull of the first draft. You have to be able to go anywhere, do anything without censoring yourself, but at the same time you have to know how your story world works or you can’t go far enough.
And that’s even before I got to the classification of demon goats (Capra baphometus? Capra baphometa?) and why bicarbonate of soda probably isn’t going to cure Nita’s iron poisoning unless it’s Hell’s bicarbonate of soda and god knows what the scientific name for that is. But here’s a nice video on equilibrium I found very helpful in figuring out hellgates and what happens to demons when you cut off their heads:
And the classification of hellhounds is Canis lupus cerberus. Or as Nick calls him, “Stripe,”so now all I have to do is figure out how hellhounds work. I added a hellcat, too. I can’t imagine Nita living without a cat, especially if it’s a stray that nobody likes which would be right down Nita’s alley, so now in addition to the hellhound world building, I have to figure out how a stray hellcat got to the island.
The good thing is, after a lot of heavy thinking and heavy googling, I’ve pretty much got a grasp on my storyworld (helps tremendously that I put it on an island in a lake too treacherous to cross by boat). All I’m missing is the answer to the question that Nick keeps asking: Why would a demon risk everything to open an illegal hellgate onto a cold, rocky island in the middle of nowhere?
I’m working on that one.
[NOTE: The post for PoI “4C” will be up within the next 24 hours. As I was writing it, I realized it was a great example of how not to write the Big Misunderstanding, so I scrapped what I had and started over.]