Friday, September 14, 2007

Troubled Waters Update

I had some very encouraging feedback concerning Troubled_Waters. A friend, who's helped me with work in the past, spent two evenings on the phone with me going over his in depth notes. He read the most recent draft, though incompletely edited, so some of what he addressed I'd already dealt with. But you know what helped more than anything? The fact that he liked it and could point to his favorite scenes and say things like "this scene choked me up" and "this scene had me cheering". The action scenes worked, apart from some minor technicalities like the name of the weapons involved. Thank God for men who can throw phrases like "Berretta.580" around. The love scenes worked for him and--coming from that individual--that's a big compliment. I think he kind of considers himself an authority on love.

He did encourage me to make sure the reader knows how the MC feels about her male counterpart, even if the male doesn't. Also he felt that the male counterpart was too hesitant to act upon his reflexes. He's right about the MC. I'm already addressing that, but the male character's behavior is debatable. My husband is an excellent example of the kind of man who's willing to wait on the female in his life to figure out he's interested. And, yes, I prefer that approach.

The friend's most important comment was that the opening needed to be intensified. He feels that it starts too slowly and drags a bit while I'm setting up the plot. Once again, the opening scene haunts me. I've already reordered the second chapter and made sure the opening line zinged, but I've left the chat-log as the very first chapter (prologue is a dirty word) because it sets the tone for the entire book. Without it, there's no sense of direction. His advice was to write an actual murder scene as my first chapter. As I see it, the problem with that is that it gives away far too much and misdirects the reader. That by itself isn't bad as long as the first chapter is short, but it brings a third person omniscient pov into it that doesn't surface again and I have my doubts about that being a good idea. By the time I'd spoken with him, I'd tighten the chatlog, eliminating the opening small talk, and took the reader directly into what I hope is the chilling question, "What the hell happened?" Maybe that will be enough.

Now if Dennis Bryant's offer still holds, I'm sending it his way to share with a reading group he uses sometime this weekend.


Scotty said...

Glad to hear it's all going well, Mary; I'm expecting a personally autographed copy when it's published.


{I'll pay, of course :-) }

Dennis Bryant said...

The offer still holds :-) I look forward to seeing how it has evolved.

Mary O. Paddock said...

You got it Scotty. :)

Dennis--Thank you.

That distant rumbling you're hearing? It's me typing as fast as I can!

Anonymous said...

Hi Mary,

Please forgive this weird intrusion, but over in the comments on Nathan Bransford's blog you raised an issue that has me confused, and I'm hoping you'll clarify.

What you posted was this:

"As a writer, I know the rule about starting a story out with dialogue being a technical "no-no" (though I have no idea what committee voted that one in and can only assume it was on a slow day)."

And my response was this:

"Wait... what? I've read plenty of books, articles, blogs, etc. on writing, but I've never heard this rule.

What about Terry Bisson's 1991 Nebula nominee that's *all* dialogue?

Or Alcott's _Little Women_? ("Christmas won't be Christmas without any presents," grumbled Jo, lying on the rug.)

Or McCullough's _Caesar's Women_? ("Brutus, I don't like the look of your skin. Come here to the light, please.")

Or White's _Charlotte's Web_? ("Where's Papa going with that ax?" said Fern to her mother as they were setting the table for breakfast.)

Is this a new rule? Where did it come from? I'm confused. Anyone have more info on this?"

No one replied, so I thought I'd ask you personally. Hope you don't mind. I'm with you when it comes to knowing the rules and breaking them as necessary. That's why I need to know more about this rule, because I've broken it plenty without knowing it existed.

Please help!

Bandersnatchi said...

I feel sooo guilty now.
I've just been so busy (weak excuse)
I'll make up for it mary, I promise.

why is prologue a dirty word? Who said so?


Mary O. Paddock said...

Hi Sunjunkie--
I picked this tidbit up in a writing workshop I was a member of a couple of years ago. The focus of this workshop was predominantly short fiction, but many of the same rules apply. I am not an authority, by the way.

The statement was made by someone (I don't remember who) that opening with dialogue, unless it's very, very good, can be a mistake as it is asking the reader to "hear" a character with no sense of the character's voice, the place or the time. Think radio as opposed to theater. Which one is more real and immediate? It's better to "place" the character first, then give them a voice. Or so they say.

I obviously don't think this is a hard and fast rule, myself as I preferred the dialogue opening in the contest. But truthfully I haven't run across very many strong openings that started with dialogue.

Hi Geoff--
No worries. You've been a little busy of late. :)

Haven't you heard? Prologues have gone out of vogue. They're like "movie trailers" before the main feature.

Confession? I don't tend to read them myself. I skip past them and go to the story. So what's said in that link and elsewhere on the net is true. If you're going to write one, be absolutely sure it's necessary and very careful about what information you include in it. Witness Tree, the currently mothballed learning experience of the 2005-2006 writing years, had one. The story needed the opening murder scene to deliver the sense of direction.

Bandersnatchi said...

Similarly, Tetroid, written 1997-2000, has a prologue. It exists to tell the reader this novel is about the discovery of time travel / teleportation - because Chapter One starts with the mystery of the disappearance of the scientists who discovered it.

I hoped to interest the reader with a bit of foreshadowing.
Do I now have to re-think this I wonder?


Anonymous said...

Aha! Thanks so much for clearing that up. Excellent point to keep in mind.

I like your blog, by the way.

Best of luck with the writing ~