Wednesday, March 19, 2008

By Request 4

I'll try my best to answer the questions that Janet and some other writers have posed. If you have more questions about writing then please feel free to ask away in the comments and I'll try to answer.
So, we've established that the internal plot is the important one.

a)How do you deal with the backstory underpinning those internal conflicts? How much do you reveal at the start of the story? (early chapters)
I find I drip feed small snippets of information in gradually that gives the reader the impression of the heroines life and character and usually there is just a small paragraph or couple of lines here and there that gives the reader a gimpse into the heroines thoughts or feelings. Those in turn hint at the conflicts ahead. Here's an example from A Taste of Summer. This part is when we first meet Cassidy.

Cassidy made her way slowly back along the seafront, licking her ice cream as she strolled along. The summer sun warmed her skin as she stopped to lean on the sea wall. The beach looked busy with families and groups of small children paddled in the shallows. Surfers in black wetsuits rode their boards on the waves, while younger children tried out boogie boards.

All around her, people enjoyed the sunshine and the sand. Automatically, she glanced at her wrist to check the time. A pale band of skin showed up against the honey tan of her arms and she remembered she’d deliberately removed her watch for the day. She’d hoped that without the constant reminder of the time the day would pass less painfully.

So we learn from this that something was due to take place that day that she doesn't want to be reminded about. Then a little further on:

“Cassidy? Cassidy Jones?”
Her heart sank. It looked as if she had been wrong about not meeting anyone who knew her here in New Bay. Of all the people she hadn’t wanted to bump into,
“Hello, Josh, what a surprise to see you.” Josh Parker was definitely one of them.
He crossed the paved area between the tables to come and stand at her table, a bewildered expression on his face. “What brings you here? I thought you and Ethan were supposed to be headed for the Seychelles.” He looked around as if he expected Ethan to suddenly materialize beside her.
Cassidy bit her lip. It looked as if her famously work-obsessed boss hadn’t heard the news.
“I didn’t get married.” She tried not to sound terse. In her head she’d practised how she would tell people and explain to them what had happened. Now, confronted in the last place on earth she had expected to see someone she knew, all her carefully chosen phrases deserted her. “Ethan dumped me.”
Josh looked confused. “So, you’re not married?”
Cassidy clenched her teeth. “No.”
She did a mental eye-roll. For a supposedly intelligent man who’d built up a thriving dotcom marketing business, Josh could be mystifyingly dense.

There's no big internalising of the conflicts, no ong passages of her anguished feelings but in two short pieces the reader can already see where this story is heading. The reader can also empathise with Cassidy. This is a girl who likes to keep up appearances, not ony has she been jilted but it's been embarressing.

b)And what techniques do you use to reveal it? As you can see from the above snippets, I like to set the scene for the reader so they can picture that seafront, hear the gulls and the waves on the sand. Then I add in the smal details about the heroine or hero's past and how it affects them. Cassidy has removed her watch because she finds that watching the time is too painful. Again a litte further on we read:
In the distance, above the sound of the sea, she heard the faint chimes of the church clock striking four. Cassidy blinked back a tear. She should have been wearing her designer wedding dress and greeting her guests now. Instead all she had to look forward to was supper on a tray and her boss for company.

So Josh isn't just a random acquaintance, he's her boss and today should have been her wedding day. So athough she's removed her watch and tried to hide hersef away, she's ended up running into her boss and all around her are reminders of what the day should have held for her. Cassidy is an ostrich, she avoids problems and tries to create her own reality. Contrast this with Josh:

Cassidy plunked her hot chocolate down on to the coffee table with a thud, splashing a little of the contents over the brim. “Just how big a party have you planned?”

“A dozen or so of my old surfing friends and their girls. Before I started the business I used to spend every summer down here catching some waves and hanging out with my buds. It’s really good to catch up with everyone again.”

“And I suppose the other party you mentioned will be the same sort of thing?”

“Yeah, barbeque and beers. I even bought a gazebo to put up just in case we get a rain-shower.” Josh swivelled in his seat to dangle his leg casually over the arm of his chair.

The look in Cassidy’s eyes was distinctly murderous. He wondered if she’d been this uptight before Ethan had dumped her. It was two lousy parties, that was all! It wasn’t as if he expected her to fetch drinks or help clear up or anything. He’d even invited her along, thinking that being in fresh company might cheer her up and save her from brooding.

Josh is Mr Sociability, relaxed and chilled out. Cassidy tries to keep up a front where Josh doesn't look for anything complicated. Their internal conflicts are shown in their attitudes towards the party plans.

c) Do you decide on your theme before you write the book or does it develop out of the story that unfolds? The conficts stem from the characters personalities but I do decide on the main problem right from the planning stage. Josh and Cassidy are forced to share a holiday cottage. At work Josh is efficient and distant, but his heart is with his surfer friends. Cassidy feels she has to keep up her image for her former fiance. So both of them haven't been revealing their true personaities. Forced into closer proximity the layers begin to come off, emotionally speaking,so by the end of the story they finally see and accept each other for who they really are.


Janet said...

Wow. That was really helpful and interesting. With examples too!Thank you, Nell. (Cutting and pasting)

ilovefictionreview said...

This is really interesting stuff Nell. I have read your Taste of Summer story and loved it. (Though as usual I'd say it wasn't long enough!) You always leave me wanting more....;0)