Sunday, February 21, 2010

The Weaver

One of the more interesting parts of the rewrite of my novel as I near the end is the work required to make the story feel like it's of a piece, to make it feel like the purpose that guided it had a coherence from the beginning.

What I've just said is way too vague to be useful, I'm sure.

What I mean is that, for a story to feel crafted, for a reader to feel like she's in the hands of a storyteller with a clue, a story needs many threads, some big and some small, that wind back on themselves, that interleave with each other. Items, even small items, that presented themselves in one scene come back to be given more meaning later.

A couple examples will likely clarify. In my book, a pair of mallards shows up early on. I pay enough attention to them in one scene that I have, in effect, made a promise to the reader that these ducks matter. So I must come back to them. Must give them their own story that flows through the main plot in some coherent way.

As a second example, the star character in my book proves to have a talent for drawing and painting. I cannot have this skill appear from nowhere the first time it proves useful to the plot. Instead, I have to back up in the story and lay the seeds.

The exercise of weaving both of these plot threads through the novel is fun and challenging. It's easy to break plot while injecting new stuff, and it's frightfully easy to have the new material stand out like a badly-done room addition to a house, with a great thunking lump on the threshold.*

One other risk is that of having the new threads show up too aggressively. They are supposed to be invisible. You aren't supposed, as a reader, to discern the coherence they give a story. It's all meant to be magic.

If readers are ooh-ing and ah-ing (or boo-ing and bah!-ing) at the vibrance of one particular thread of the story, I've blown it.

*I know I'm mixing metaphors here--house-builders aren't weavers, after all, and neither are farmers (and as you continue the paragraph, it only gets worse!)--but I'm gonna run with it.

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