On occasion, I will offer analyses and insights into the process of writing a novel “live” with a real-time audience that is invited to participate in the development of the storyline. Today’s analysis is on writing Part Two, which I did earlier this morning.
Two huge things happened to me today in my writing Part Two of Sail Away: the first was the integration of another story idea I had been pondering, and the second was the evolution of a plot element that was born out of an uncomfortable moment between two characters.
And, now that I look a little more deeply at it, both developments happened because of dialogue– what my characters ended up saying to each other– and not what I tried to create through straight narration. This affirms my belief that it’s best to put the story in the minds and hearts of your characters once you have the plot defined and the general course plotted.
Let’s look first at that other-story integration.
I mentioned in an earlier post about a story I was plotting out for Little Patuxent Review‘s DOUBT issue; that story took place on the edge of a pier along the Chesapeake Bay. I never got around to writing that story, but the setting suddenly seemed perfect to move the action along in Part Two. When I started writing this morning, all I knew was that I needed to establish the protag’s home (a cabin) and delve a little more into his own way of life. I felt like I had established tension in Part One about what was going on; developing the main character in Part Two seemed like the right thing to do. I also needed to let some time pass to allow another element of the story develop, which will be one of the central themes of Part Three.
In the process of doing this, I developed a relationship between the protag and his neighbor; I know now the role she will be playing in the rest of the story, but I didn’t have any idea about this before I put them on the pier. Placing two characters together like this really develops some strong possibilities, as I discovered toward the end of Part Two.
My two characters reached a point on the edge of the pier where they were uncomfortably close with each other. They are not romantically involved, but they have a strong affinity for each other; I liken them to being “soulmates living parallel lives.”
To relieve the tension between them, I had the protag mention the box that had been dropped off at his neighbor’s house. I did that JUST as a diversion, but her response about the return address being odd really surprised me. I had no plans for the address to play into the plot of the story, but here she was, making it an issue.
What transpired between them immediately thereafter triggered the epiphanic development of a plot element that now brings greater meaning to the overall storyline. It’s all about empowering the characters to react within the framework of the way in which you developed them.
I’m really excited to write Part Three tomorrow morning. I know the basic setting and a general idea of where this segment should take the storyline, and I can’t wait to see what happens when Jake and Kristin open the package!
Check back mid-day on Monday to read Part Three of Sail Away. I invite you to leave a comment about the story and get involved with its development. This is a novel-in-progress for all of us!