Echoes and Sharpies

Krissie bought me a pack of colored Sharpies the last time she was here and I’ve been working them like crazy, trying to track the echoes in Nita.  “Echoes” is not a technical term, but “motif” isn’t right for this and repetition is too general.  What I’m talking about here, folks, is a scene that recurs, shifting each time to arc a character or plot point.  For example . . .

The Breakfast Scenes: Nick and Nita meet at 1AM on Tuesday and trouble ensues; seven hours later they meet again at the diner where they’re both having breakfast and Nick sits down with her to find out what she knows. During that breakfast, they get to know each other a little better and like each other, and then big trouble happens at the end of it and they’re both afraid for each other and the relationship has shifted. On Wednesday, they wake up together (platonically) and have breakfast in his apartment, repeating a lot of the actions (and food) from the previous day while dealing with new information and an antagonist while Jeo and Rab wander in and out, foreshadowing a team. On Thursday, they all meet for breakfast at the diner again, but this time it’s Nick, Nita, Rab, and Jeo, and then Max and Button show up, and they make plans for the day which get blown up immediately afterward.

I still have Friday and Saturday to go, but I dropped breakfast. I had a three beat, what the hell. Except they wouldn’t stop having breakfast, so attention must be paid. So on Friday, when Nick wakes up and has no idea who Nita is and leaves the room yelling for Jeo, Nita has to call after him, “What, no breakfast?” and then think she kind of misses it later that day. Easy fix. But then on Saturday, I need a new normal, so in spite of the fact that I have to cut a zillion words from thing, I am going to have to do something about that Saturday breakfast. Because there’s an echo, and waiting for the echo is like waiting for the other shoe to drop: upsetting if it doesn’t happen.

There are other echoes–Nick and Nita working together hit a rhythm of breaking into places, splitting the bad guy’s attention, getting information, and then taking out the bad guy, so that’s fun–but the key is to keep it light so that it’s under the radar–you don’t want readers thinking “Oh, hell, there’s another damn breakfast scene, I get it, I GET IT”–but still rhythmic to set up expectation.

And also to cut about a hundred pages because the book is too long already. Sigh. But all will be well because I have the colored Sharpies Krissie got me. Colored Sharpies and graph paper can solve ANYTHING.

I hope.

20 thoughts on “Echoes and Sharpies

  1. I will never be a writer. (:

    All my Sharpies are black and my paper is unlined. For the printer, you know?

    Best I leave the writing to the experts, and just throw cash at them, time to time. 🙂

  2. I think to YOU can solve anything with coloured sharpies and graph paper.

    I just realised that I must get graph paper. I like to work in ta tables to identify patterns, but I keep finding I need to draw the columns out.

  3. If this were TV, I’d call it “procedural elements,” but that doesn’t work for a single book.

    Cycles? Pattern units? Spiral intersections? Pass Go and collect $200?

  4. I still maintain there’s no such thing as “too long” if we’re talking your work.

  5. I’m working drafts electronically but I definitely like using color to help keep, e.g. ‘new’ from ‘old’ straight. Especially if it’s a gamma draft going back to beta reader. ‘New stuff is purple’ is easier for her. And easier for me because track changes is such a giant PITA and I basically never want something back after I delete it unless it’s a whole scene.

    There were a few scenes I ripped out of things that I dumped in a notes folder because I might be able to put them in a different project. Then there was the whole 20,000+ word love story I ripped out of that novel that turned into a separate novella. Eh. It’s all about dismemberment over here apparently. I promise, not writing horror.

  6. An how often does one get to say “It’s all about dismemberment”? I will have to save this phrase for thanksgiving soup making conversation.

    And now I want breakfast items……..

  7. I love the breakfast Echo. you do realize if your book were longer than War and Peace, most of us would still want to read it? Me for sure.

  8. This brings up a question I’ve been meaning to ask: In Nita’s book, how clear or vivid are the demons’ memories of life on earth? Are they limited to the time period or country they lived in before becoming demonic? Do they notice things on earth that go into their memory banks to build a picture of the present day, or are they repeatedly surprised by things like automobiles or how elevators work? Are they put off by people who don’t have delicious gruel at meals, or fail to sweep down in bows to big shots? My inquiring (nosy) mind wants to know stuff like that. Oh, and War & Peace would be about the right length, as far as I’m concerned.

    1. They were never on Earth. They’re born demons. They just a different race.
      Hell is a company town like LA or Detroit, one major business to drive everything, supported by lots of smaller businesses. The vast majority of demons never come to Earth, just like the vast majority of LA residents are never in a movie. But they all know about Earth the way everybody in LA knows about the movies. Those who are employed in areas where they might deal with Earth usually have degrees in Earth Science and there’s continuing education; that’s why Belia just got an A on her Advanced English test and Rab tells Vinnie he’s an Earth Science major.
      Think of the demons who come to stay as immigrants: they’re giving up everything because they want a different life.

    2. My understanding is that the demons aren’t/were never human, so they generally wouldn’t have memories of life on each unless they went up there deliberately for work or to cause trouble. So maybe, like Rab, they study up on the current customs before they go down to earth?

  9. I love color. I never was able to get into the black clothing thing.

    I don’t think any of us are put off by long books.

  10. A hundred extra pages and a multitude of brekkie scenes sound about right. Yeeeah. Go!

  11. If people didn’t buy long books Diana Gabaldon would have stopped publishing years ago.

  12. One novel I like has a fall into the river scene at the beginning of the story and another — exactly like it but entirely different — towards the end. The two scenes encapsulate the plot and character. I’d read the book twice before someone pointed out to me the significance of the two scenes.

    That said, the way you’re breaking up expectations with changing meeting up scenes sounds great to me. Nita and Nick probably seem to have greater challenges in really “coming together” when they can’t establish a rhythm like shared breakfasts.

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