Monday, September 8, 2008

Subtlety just smacked me upside the head!

I want to make David into the kind of character you fall in love with because you want to fix him, to teach him how to feel, like Stephen Maturin in O'Brian's sweeping naval chronicles who is equal parts brilliance and dysfunction. Or rather David IS that kind of character, but I'm hoping to have the skill to write him as such. I don't know if I'm up to the task, though. There's a level of subtlety required that I'm not sure I possess.

Case in point: Most of what I wrote yesterday will be cut out of the manuscript immediately. I went on a run with David, and it's too much. It'll have to go. I had detailed the entirety of his daily route through campus. He pretty much took us on a tour, and THEN he went home and ate breakfast. UGH. It was awful! WHO CARES what David eats for breakfast?! (Actually, it's rather funny, and I will add it back in to the story if David starts taking himself too seriously and we all just need to laugh at him and shake our heads.) I realize that it's vital for ME to know all of these minute details about David, but it's completely useless to the narrative at this point, and really just an excuse for me to indulge in a glut of description. I had a DUH moment today and realized that I have an ENTIRE NOVEL to showcase my descriptive chops, so I shouldn't be in too much a hurry to exhaust my options.

That being said, the gods of subtlety and ambiguity must have smiled on me today, because an alternate close to chapter 1 occurred to me, and I think it will be far superior. I will just let David have his run...without stalking him every stop of the way. David needs his space, and I have learned to respect that need. He doesn't have to explain to me (or a reader) what he wants out of life, or where he's going, or how he ended up where he is. I will not force David to ponder the mysteries of his being as he runs. One thing I learned from my research run yesterday is that outside of the simple act of keeping my feet moving and my arms pumping and my lungs from exploding, which is all more or less automatic, I wasn't thinking anything. I was just running. It's a completely different animal than taking a walk. I didn't know that before. But now I do. (Yay for me and my hair-brained research ideas paying off!) So I will let David run. I will let him be free from thinking for a few moments of his day. It's a little like the "No games. Just sports" Nike ad in the movie What Women Want.

And part of this new approach to the end of chapter 1 is to test out how vague I can be without it being off-putting. I want to see if it's too confusing to an outside reader to leave David's present situation in the realm of possibility for a few pages. So I'm going to transition to Claire's chapter before revealing that we're now in Bloomington, and then lead the reader to infer that David is there with us. But I won't delve into David's academic status until a later chapter, perhaps before he runs into Claire on the street in the second/third chapter.

And I have only just realized that I haven't given a physical description of David. I myself don't even have a concrete vision of him yet. He has been so young and so changeable up until this point that it wouldn't make sense to waste energy describing the child David and then have to repeat the effort to envision the man David. His dominant feature is simply his youth. And of course he's an avid runner, so he has a runner's lean body, but that pretty much goes without saying. I think I'll just leave David's physical appearance up to interpretation, at least until Claire has a reason to take notice.

I've also determined that I've either inadvertently or instinctively chosen a good starting place for the story. We'll all have a chance to settle into the science and settings without jumping too quickly into any major conflict, but will some small relationship tension be enough to keep us occupied until we get to the conflict? I don't know yet. This is all very hard.

My writer's pact, I've decided, will give me a week to write a paragraph and then a week to tweak it. I'm hoping I can push myself to just get it all out in a week. That would be awesome. But then again, I'm worried about rushing myself.

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