Monday, September 17, 2007

Conflict vs. Anger

I made my goal of four pages again today -- four and a half pages, actually. I had to almost completely rewrite the opening two scenes of chapter four. In one scene, nothing really happened, and in the other my two characters (Elaine and Darrell) were passive and a jerk, respectively. Not exactly my best work -- my weakest writing in ALDEN RIDGE came in this particular chapter, actually, because I was trying too hard to write in a style that is not my own.

I was intentionally trying to create external conflict between the characters, in keeping with some of the writerly advice that I was reading around that time. I had read that a modern debut has to have conflict on every page, and I took that a little bit too literally in the case of Darrell needlessly acting like a jerk. In my rewrites, I was able to maintain the conflict -- he and Elaine are disagreeing about something important, and ultimately he doesn't get what he wants -- but I did so in a way that doesn't even make him come across as rude.

I suppose it may seem a subtle distinction, but essentially I just made it so that the conflict was implicit to the scene, rather than something that I was artificially manufacturing by characterizing Darrell in a way I hadn't originally intended. Based on the original version of the scene, I actually had one reader who started wondering if Darrell was going to actually turn out to be the bad guy. Suffice it to say, this was not what I was intending to convey. But I do feel like my reworked version is firing on all cylinders.

So that's what I did with the second scene -- the first scene, which was largely between Darrell and Lela, was just empty before. He told Lela some things, she said okay to each thing, there was some internal conflict on his part, and the scene ended. Fairly true to life in representing how a parent might give instructions to a child, but not exactly riveting to read about. In the original version of this scene, instead of having conflict that was manufactured, I just didn't have any conflict at all.

Fortunately, I was able to solve this problem during my rewrite. I introduced some new issues by showing more of both Darrell and Lela's thoughts (one of the beautiful things about my choice to write in third omniscient), and I rewrote their dialogue so that it was a lot more active and involved some real back-and-forth between the two of them. That way it wasn't just his monologue with her brief acknowledgments inserted in the middle. Much, much better this way.

At any rate, tonight's work takes me about a third of the way through my original chapter four, and then chapter five is going to be my first all-new chapter during these rewrites. I'm very much looking forward to that -- I guess I'll be reaching that point in three days at the most if I keep to my schedule. Oh, and also: today I hit 30,000 estimated words. All right!

The stats as of today:
-30,000 estimated words.
-34,684 actual words.
-Three-and-a-portion fully-revised-and-expanded chapters (50 pages total).
-Ten completed chapters in all (120 pages).

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