Tag Archives: plot holes

To keep on keeping on

I’m more than halfway through the month, and my resolve to write every day is being sorely tested. There have been days that I’m tired and don’t want to do even the littlest bit more work. There have been days that feel like cop outs, where I’ve done the tiniest bit I can. But I’ve stuck with it so far. And I can see where my project is going.

After realizing last week how much additional stuff I could work in, and after writing a couple scenes, I realized the whole second half of my book was going to need some rearranging. So, I took one day (ok, I took a 15-minute break at work) and I plotted out barebones how the second half of the story needs to look. And in so doing, learned some new details about a problem character (turns out he’s a lawyer. It’s good, I didn’t really know what he was before, but it makes sense now). And learning these details allowed me to, perhaps, finally solve the most problematic thread in my story, while at the same time possibly rendering that it completely moot anyway.

I’m not working on this project every day. And sometimes it feels like I’ve barely made progress, despite the brainstorming. But I’m letting the details mingle in my mind, getting a feel for this new timeline. And in my time off next week, I’m really going to sit down and make some solid progress, instead of keeping my nose stuck in a book (I’ve got book reviews written through the month of October, I think I can take a couple days off…)

In the mean time, I’ll count any step forward as a victory.

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Stepping Back and Moving Forward

As we all know, the last couple weeks I’ve taken a hiatus from my project because I felt maybe I’d reached the point of needing a critic, and I haven’t found anyone to do the job/haven’t emailed it to the family member(s) I feel would be objective about it. But this week, I decided to give it another read through, after having allowed it to be on the back burner, just to see if anything new jumped out at me. And boy did it.

I think taking a break from a project while editing is a good thing. It allows you to put some distance between you as the writer and you as the editor. It allows some of the unwritten details to fade from your mind a little, which means when you come back to it, you’re more in tune to areas that may need more explaining or developing. I ran into that while rereading the portion where Mason meets with the people claiming to be his parents.

From the moment he meets them, everything happens so fast (don’t worry, I won’t spoil the ending). The psychological turmoil I want him to experience seems a little far fetched. It hasn’t been nearly long enough for him to start questioning what’s real and what isn’t. So I realized that I need to allow the timeline to stretch out just a little.

But in stretching the timeline, I now need to ask myself, does everything else make sense. The reporter who is looking into his story, does her behavior make sense? What would she be doing, or what would she be reporting? If everything happens within two or three days, maybe it’s OK, but if I spread it over a week, something would obviously have to be different. I’ve also come back around to those stupid medical records that seemed to crucial in the beginning, but now seem to be nothing but plot holes and problems. So I have to ask myself, what are the ramifications of getting rid of them all together? Do I lose anything, other than a couple thousand words?

Finally, when I revisited this whole section of the story and started correcting inconsistencies (it may make sense for people who believe someone is their child to pass up on a DNA test, but if the now-grown child is uncertain, wouldn’t he ask for one, or wouldn’t they decide to do one to put his mind at ease?), I realized I needed someone on the inside, which showed me a little more depth to a supporting character. His loyalties aren’t what we’d assumed them to be.

So, now that I’ve looked through it again, I see several areas I can start working on, again. And more than that, I see pretty clearly where things need to go, which can be half the battle when editing. It’s easy to make something that doesn’t feel right, but harder to know what you need to do to make it work. Some distance can give you a fresh perspective.

So now I’ve been challenging myself to write just one scene a day, plodding along at making the necessary changes that make this story, or at least its characters, believable.

Stories are like onions…

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.