Monster Chapter


Under construction.
It would be a lie to say that I haven’t done much writing this week; I just haven’t written much that I can post. Against my better judgement, I volunteered to submit pages to my writer’s group this week. Pages that were not already written. Pages that were proving to be extremely recalcitrant to put down on paper. Pages which I’d been laboring over for two weeks already. 

I was hoping that having a deadline would help prevent me from being too precious about it and just get it written. I think it has helped but I’m still grinding away at getting the words in order. 

I’m currently working on a novel, which is a change of pace from my recent screenwriting endeavors. I keep having to remind myself that this is a character driven piece, not a plot driven piece, and that I’m not limited to one hundred and twenty pages, but it’s a struggle to overcome those instincts that I’ve worked hard to cultivate. The present chapter is a bit of a stand alone episode in the larger narrative: it takes place in a town that the characters will leave behind with a number of walk-on characters that we will likewise never see again. But they’re important characters for this chapter and have to be set up and torn down in record time and with enough closure that readers don’t find themselves asking what happened to them. 

All in all, this particular chapter has been among the most frustrating bits of writing that I’ve worked on in a long time. I already had the beginning: a phone conversation to follow up on a story thread that was already introduced, and to set the scene in a new location: a lonely, small town on the edge of nowhere. The characters arrive because of a flat tire, and are just passing through, but are trapped there for the night because it is the Fourth of July and the mechanic can’t get the parts he needs until someone goes into the city to get them. That much of the setup was easy and obvious. 

The end of the chapter came out next in one big rush: the characters flee town in the dead of night after clashing with a local evangelist preacher and riling up the townsfolk. And they are also at each other’s throats: one character sells off another’s possessions in order to get enough cash to get all of them to Chicago, setting up a dynamic of codependence and betrayal and petty revenge that is going to play out for a lot of the story. So there’s a lot of important setup that needs to happen in a short amount of time. 

It’s turning into a monster chapter, but it’s not a sequence that would work if it were broken up into two. It’s a single, heavy, volatile unit. The chapter equivalent of a plutonium molecule. So I’ve fallen into the trap of writing with my editor brain on. The story is only coming out in frustrating, dis-ordered pieces that have to be assembled and reassembled as each new bit of information comes to light. I’ve second guessed every choice, then second guessed every second guess. I’m not sure if what I have works, or if I’m writing myself into a swivet. 

I’m hoping that some fresh eyes can give me new perspective. I got the pages as far as I could, and sketched in the goals of the missing scene (ex: we find out that character A has the hots for character B, meanwhile character C gets into a fight with character D) and sent the pages off to the writing group.  Maybe I just need to take a step back in order to move forward. 

So anyway, that’s my excuse for being radio silent all week. 

~ by Gwydhar Gebien on September 15, 2017.

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