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Sunday, May 23, 2010

AFDOC 20: Major Change to the Story Climax

As I've worked my way through the climax of the story for the 700th time, it still doesn't feel right. It isn't what I wanted to say and the idea I wanted to leave with the reader. I've known it all along somewhere underneath the layers and layers of ideas that have swirled around me over the past two years, but the process of revision brought it all to a climax {yes, I know it's a hopeless pun, but too good to ignore} in a big way this week. But you need a little background to help you see where it's been and where it is now without giving away the "big to-do." After all, you are planning to buy the book when all is said and done and I don't want to spoil the fun.

When I started this book for real about six years ago, I had in mind a feel good experience, a retrospective look at the 50s and what life for a young girl and her slightly peculiar family was like in the deep South when Elvis and Tammy were hitting the scene. As I progressed through the Good-Lord-Himself knows how many critique groups and classes and submitted material, I kept getting back there's no plot, no tension, funny but not going anywhere, etc. etc. In abundance I got critique notes on ways to throw in some dirt and make the story grittier. Now, keep in mind that I did have a few gritty surprises under my hat, but I hadn't shared any of those yet. When I did reveal where I was going what I got was it's not enough, let us see the pain, let us see some drama, and so forth. So I relented and ramped things up with grousing and arguing, a little more grit, and I've had trouble feeling attached to most of those scenes from the get-go. What I wanted to share was a family somewhere between the Adams family and the Beaver. Apparently America has become too jaded to accept that a lot of families really lived like that. I, for example, would never have seriously questioned my father to his face much less my mother. When they said be home by 10 pm, I was. I raced a few cars, smoked a few cigarettes, sneaked on eyeliner on the bus on the way to ballgames, but believe you me, my friends and I were not the Pink Ladies. If I had been caught dressing like Rizzo, I'd probably still be doing time in my room.

But this week as I labored {and it was} to write some wrongs in my story, my writing angel whispered an idea in my ear. She was more subtle than usual. This particular angel has the same personality characteristics as the ghost of Christmas Present, Carol Kane, in Scrooged with Bill Murray, and she keeps me on my toes. The change means rewriting the last third of the book in a major way and I'll need to start weaving some new foreshadowing along the way. I'll finish the first major rewrite this week and sometime in the next six months my two current critique groups will see it. It may be too sappy for them. We'll see. But, you know what, it bears a startling similarity to something I got involved in when I was 15 - 16, so I know it's possible.

Have a good one. Mahala

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