One problem I’ve been having in the past years (argh) is going too dark. And here’s Zelda, stuck in a house where people are getting murdered, so I can feel the lights dimming. But there’s I’m-so-depressed-I’m-going-to-kill-myself dark and there’s Gorey dark. Black comedy. Or at least Charcoal Gray Comedy. I just need ways to remind myself of that. So I thought about chapter heads. Usually I don’t use chapter quotes or comments or anything besides “Chapter One” because I want the chapter breaks to be invisible, but I’m thinking maybe I’ll try chapter heads this time as part of the story. A little retro post-modernism, if you will, using old techniques to do commentary and play with readers’ perceptions. Usually when I get this clever, i get shot down because clever screws up story telling, and there’s a good chance that’s going to happen again. But I’m going to work with the chapter heads for awhile anyway.
Here’s the chapter head for Chapter One:
The big problem is that commentary like that is third omniscient so I’m essentially yanking my reader out of my nice third limited story with every chapter head. That’s bad. And I’m creating distance because it’s hard to attach to characters when the writer keeps telling you at the top of every chapter, “These people are characters in a story, not real people you should care about.” That’s very bad. And it’s very possibly too precious for words. That would be the worst.
But for right now, I’m trying it if only because it gives me another way of seeing the progression for Zelda and James.
What I’ve found as I looked through my plot descriptions is that I kept forgetting who my protagonist was. Everybody in this book has a problem, and I kept writing the plot sentences with different people as subjects instead of “Zelda does this” followed by “Zelda does that.” It’s Zelda’s book. All the sentences of the main plot description should start with her. No wonder this book was a mess, it had no center.
So now Zelda’s back in the center. With plants. Doing perennial jokes. Okay, maybe not, but she’s definitely in the center and I definitely have to learn more about plants so I can keep that as part of her personality. I don’t really know Zelda yet. I don’t think I knew her three years ago, not the way I knew James and Scylla and Rose. I know what she doesn’t want but I don’t know what she wants. Why are negative goals (“I don’t want to go to Rosemore”) so much more attractive (to me at least) than postive goals (“I want to find my father”)? I can give you six reasons why Zelda doesn’t want to go to Rosemore, but I still can’t think of why she wants to find her father. Anger, maybe; she wants to face him and say, “You jerk, you never gave a damn for me.” That might be good except that here comes another angry Crusie heroine. Still, I need something that comes from her character, not from the outside. I need to have a talk with Zelda and ask her what she’s going to do when she finds him. There’s a good question right there.
Oh, and in the meantime, I cut the first scene to 3000 words. I should be able to get more out of there with another couple of run throughs. So that’s almost 5K gone right there. Or course it doesn’t make sense, and when I write the last chapter I’ll go back and change it all anyway, but for right now, I’m moving ahead while the word count falls. Sigh.