Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Did Someone Mention "First Draft"?

So why are first drafts hell?

I'm going to dive you right in to what it's like as I slog through one scene in "Rogue Dancer" - the sequel to my SF novel "Blade Dancer".

The purpose of this scene is to resolve a conflict between two characters enough as to allow the plot to move forward. The two characters in question are my main character Mikial and her natural mother Maltenna. To say that they don’t exactly get along is an understatement. There’s a whole novel’s worth of back story to deal with.

My challenge as a writer is to provide an entertaining scene for the reader that doesn’t murder pacing. I don’t want my reader deciding that this is the perfect place to set the book down. I also have to provide a realistic conclusion that will have the reader believe that progress has been made.

Arrayed against me are my characters – each with a deep background of their own and a painfully stubborn disposition. I can’t just put words in their mouths, because many readers will immediately spot a character who is out of character.

First step – the setting. Lets put them in a place that itself is interesting (and in this case also provides a catalyst…which is all of the cat you're getting out of this bag). Hands down, the winner is one of my flying machines – a two-seater “airsail”. Mikial is in the front giving a ride to Maltenna in the back. Gee, that was easy enough.

Wish the rest was. Maltenna is a political leader with an iron will. Mikial is her mother’s daughter in this respect – as stubborn as they come. Both need each other. Mikial has some leverage, having learned a secret Maltenna has been hiding.

Mikial starts to negotiate reasonably. Maltenna guardedly does the same. Obviously something’s wrong here – it’s talking heads in a plane. Yawn.

I loosen Mikial’s reins and suddenly she’s all but screaming at her mother. Nope. Try again. Ok, sarcasm dripping in venom won’t do either. Finally, I get some reasonably heated conversation – sprinkle in the fact that they’re still uh…flying. So negotiations swirl around personal feelings. Have to keep focused. All through this, I am sitting in either Mikial’s head, or Maltenna’s. Each has a history and I am bound to react from their perspective. Mikial is inexperienced but getting more mature as events continue to exact their wrenching changes to her personality. Her mother is a hard and ambitious woman who has yet to come to grips with a relationship she never expected to renew.

Oh, and the damn plane is still in the air so lets not forget that too.

Three times my characters pound their way through conversations of differing temperatures. All the while, I am scrutinizing all of this in so far as reader enjoyment is concerned. Both of these ladies need a lot more time together than I can give them, so compromises are made. All the while, I am looking forward in the plot because everything these two agree or disagree on will ripple forward. What do they need to say now? What can wait until later? Will this rather rude statement lead them further from a settlement? Dang, these two are temperamental!

Of course, I am also considering the next scene which requires a much lighter mood on Mikial’s part. Yeah. Sure. Obviously I’m going to have to get her drunk or something if I’m gonna pull that off! (and how does she get a hold of the wine anyways?) Maybe I could have them land at a vineyard? Naw…takes too long and the pacing will suffer.

Oh, did I mention I’m dog-tired after a long day at work? Believe it or not, this one scene hung me up for three sittings before I finally reached a compromise. This is a first draft, folks. This scene may or may not end up in the final draft and will certainly be hammered into a different shape as I correct for plot changes and general wordsmithing.

Yeah, first drafts. Gotta love em.




Rose Lerma said...

Ah, Kerry, beautifully said, proving only another writer really knows what it's like. Brought tears to my eyes--not sad ones--emotional it's-great-to-be understood-ones.

Cyber hugs