Seeing as I’m no expert in editing, I’ve been mostly making it up as I go for the past month or two. I feel like I’ve had some measures of success, and now that I’ve put on an editor’s hat, I’ve been looking at my story with a different kind of gaze.
First, as I’ve read through it a few times, I’m discovering some inconsistencies. Like which mental hospital the first rumors of Vale originated in. I’ve got it both ways in my story, so there are several comments in the margins of me asking myself where exactly this has taken place. But the inconsistencies aren’t the exciting part; what is exciting are the new layers of intrigue I’ve developed just in the last few days from rereading my story and asking myself if they way I have things happening is really believable. For some cases, the answer has been no, and since I’ve put in time to solve those problems, I’ve come up with more interesting layers to add.
I don’t want to give too much away, but who knows when, if ever, this story might see the light of day. So, here goes.
Because the story is about a man who escapes from a sheltered society and no one on the outside knows it exists, it’s entirely plausible that people think he is making it up and believe he is mentally ill. I thought it would be an interesting psychological twist if Mason himself begins to question what is real and what isn’t. In my first draft, I didn’t even really get there. But as I’ve read through it again, I’ve been struck with a new train of thought. In order for someone to begin to question whether what they know is real, something would have to happen to be a catalyst. Enter a couple whose 5-year-old son went missing 20 years ago. Now here pops up a young man of the right age and physique. If given a nudge or encouragement, a bereaved mother might claim a stranger to be her son, because she believes it to be true.
So now Mason has people claiming to be his parents and a psychologist who is prodding his brain trying to uncover what hidden trauma has made him create an alternate reality to hide from his past. And if everyone believes it to be true, and tells him it is true, it’s now possible and plausible that Mason–unable to prove the truth of his story, and distanced now from it–begins to wonder if they are right, if he did make it up.
This then leads me into creating a more plausible background for a fairly crucial, albeit small character. Fisk originally was the director of the Mayfield Asylum, where Mason stays when he first leaves Vale. However, even as it wrote it, it didn’t quite make sense to me why the director of the hospital needed to be in on the secret of Vale (not to mention some serious issues with medical files, the same ones that I’m not sure where they belong. There is a serious thread here that makes things fall apart). But now it comes to light that Fisk is perhaps just a government contractor linked with Vale in some way, a handler or supervisor, perhaps, and he is friends with the couple that lost their son 20 years ago. So when someone who fits the bill needs to be reintroduced to society, Fisk has the perfect plan ready to go. He tells his friend that there is a man, approximately the same age as his lost son, who needs a home. The man (Mason) is confused about his past. Perhaps Fisk convinces his friend that it’s possible it’s his son, or perhaps the friend knows it isn’t, but takes the opportunity to try to ease the burden and pain for his wife. Whatever the case ends up being, Fisk is now the catalyst, the encouragement behind the couple coming forward to claim Mason as their son.
This, now, is more solid footing for my journalist to reach out to Fisk. Instead of randomly calling the director of the asylum, who may or may not know anything, she can interview the “parents” and get Fisk’s name from the wife, who naively tells Callie the journalist that Fisk brought their supposed son to their attention.
And finally, with this as grounds for Callie getting on the trail of a conspiracy, if need be, it eliminates the need for those pesky, ever-moving medical records that probably wouldn’t still exist in the first place–especially not if they were top secret and the hospital was run by the government people controlling the top secret project.
I don’t know if it’s that I didn’t write as solid of a story this go around, or if I’m using a new mindset, or if it’s just the result of more experience and knowledge, but the times I’ve tried editing before, it was never this easy or exciting. I’ve never looked at my story before and seen pools of potential instead of plot holes. Maybe I was too young the last time (admittedly, probably 7ish years ago), or maybe I was naive and thought my writing was really wonderful (highly likely, I think). In any case, all my whining posts about how awful editing is are now moot. The only thing awful about editing is that I wish I could do it all by hand on paper. But printing 90 pages off for editing is a little excessive, and I’ve got bills to pay. Can’t be wasting all my money on ink and paper if I don’t absolutely have to.