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Welcome all dreamers, fantasists, bibliophiles, and romantics. Join me Mondays and Fridays for speculation about other worlds, exploration of the human heart and soul in fiction and fact, sojourns in history and science, advice and tidbits in the realms of story, and thoughts on everything in between...

Friday, July 27, 2012

Work Backwards When Nothing Else Works

Yesterday, I had the privilege of reanalyzing a book I wrote about five years ago, the second in my unpublished series currently titled The Veranst Cycle. Those were the days before I understood anything about story structure or character arcs. However, the book has a lot of rich emotion and relationships, not to mention epic storytelling. But without solid structure, a novel is without bones to hold it up or make it capable of locomotion and great and memorable feats. Structure is what this particular book lacked.

So I spent much of yesterday figuring out how to take the good elements of the story and mold them onto a solid skeleton. Thanks to my husband, I made good progress. However, when dealing with something as tangled and vast as a completed novel without structure, it can be daunting to figure out how to transform it into good fiction.

Most importantly, I needed an overall plot arc, to identify the antagonist and his goals, and to understand what the story was really about, which included themes. All of these are now answered, but it took hours and employing a technique I rarely use: working backwards.

I knew, in this instance, what the climax of the book looked like, so I began with that and asked, how do I get to this point? What does this climax resolve and how? Such questions helped lead back to what became the primary plot, which I can now hang the story from to give it solid structure.

And come to think of it, working backwards was how this particular series came into existence. The first book of The Veranst Cycle came to me in the vision of the novel’s climactic scene. Answering the questions of who these people were and how they had gotten into their particular predicament built an epic fantasy that will haunt me until it is finished and, perhaps, even beyond.

What helps you when you have a difficult problem to unravel?

1 comment:

  1. I'm glad you're revisiting The Veranst Cycle. I can't wait to read its new, structured form. By the way, I thought it held together pretty darn well before, so by reworking it, I know you're just going to be putting the icing on top.

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