Trusting My Instincts

The Silent and Brave revision page #105

I’m talking about trusting my instincts as a writer. This is important, because I am all I have. It is nice to get feedback, but in the end my story is my own, and only I know how it is going to go and I am the one who has to get it there. If I start listening to all the fuzz that is out there, criticism, how to do this, how to do that, it leads to doubt and paralysis, or the famous final scene where the author sends his pages into the roaring fire and starts over from scratch. Maybe a justifiable sacrifice, but not a way to get anywhere, and, I always thought, a big waste. There’s got to be something good in there.

I’m fascinated with the way my instincts work with revision. It’s almost subconscious. I read my stuff, and as I’m reading, some things just work, and then there are other parts that stop me and make me think. It is these parts that need revision the most. I don’t always know what they need or how to fix them. There’s just a tiny spark of suspicion at first, and then I continue to work with the lines and realize that they need to change.

Today I am working on a long passage in Dreck’s head about his past, and how he came to fight for the champion. I love the background for the character. It is necessary to add depth, but the way I wrote it is all exposition, and that can be boring for he reader. I didn’t want to scrap the information, but I wanted to figure out a different way to present it. I tried moving it, but it wasn’t right in other places. I tried rewriting it, but it just got longer. I thought and thought about it, and didn’t know what to do, but my subconscious mind knew that it needed to change, and after thinking about it for a while the answer came to me.

A good way to avoid exposition, explained to me in college (thank you college) is to put the information into conversation. Instead of telling Dreck’s story in passing, I took my characters Kavela and Chauncer, who might reasonably have known Dreck or at least heard about him, and I’m putting Dreck’s background information into their mouths, during a conversation they have while they’re sitting waiting on the front lines. This works great. Instead of exposition, It becomes gossip, which is what soldiers do while they’re waiting. Even better, it fills in Dreck’s background while demonstrating problems my characters might have with him because of his past. In this way I am able to add depth and background for multiple characters, without dictating to my audience how I want them to feel. Instead I let them overhear the information and they can make up their own minds. This has the effect (I hope) of pulling the audience further into the story. That, I think, is the essence of storytelling.

I didn’t get frustrated. I just kept the problem in my mind and waited for the answer to come. I listened to my instincts and trusted myself to figure out the problem. My story is better because of it.

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