Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Chapter Two at last

Over lunch today I began writing the second chapter of my new book, "Cocke & Bull." I did not churn out a lot of words (a few hundred, I think), but what words I did scribble down are interesting. This chapter will have a bit of backstory, but I'm not telling it like backstory so much as I'm telling it as...well, I'm not quite sure what. There's an event from a month or so before the book begins that I'm relating in sort of reverse order, using images from the event to tell about the protagonist's character. It's not "this is what happened" so much as "this is how my character thinks and how he views himself." I won't go into any detail about the actual writing, I don't think, but I'm constructing this passage in a way that's new for me, and I am intrigued by the results. So that's all good.

Also good is that I've figured out how some of the characters should talk. My research into Colonial American prose is paying off. "Law me, ain't that gent?" Oh yes, it is.

Edited to add: Current wordcountometer(tm) reading: 3606!


  1. When I nixed my prologue, I needed to include some of the information somewhere. I found that to be the hardest part of my rewrite. How to do it without dumping it all over the place? I’m not trying to discuss prologues again, just that some backstory was crucial. I didn’t want to do a flashback scene that I see all too often. I wound up having a character recall this and act because of that, but something isn’t gelling.
    I’m close, but close doesn’t cut it.

  2. I don't know if you can use this technique, but one thing I did in my last book was to take events that were backstory and turn them into events that were part of the "story present" and have them happening *now*. This works when you're trying to show something about a character, so the reader can see the character in action and get a grip on how they react in certain situations.

    Another thing to consider is if you can make the same point with a scene in "real time" that you make with the backstory. Often the specific event is less important than what that event means to the story that's going on at present. If you know what I mean.

    Even though I'm currently writing about past events in my book, my focus remains squarely on my character *right now*. Readers don't want to know what happened, they want to know what's happening.

    Backstory generally shows protagonists as people things happen to, not as people who do things. That's the real problem with too much backstory. That said, some backstory is almost always necessary. But the less, the better. Rambling now.

  3. Glad you got the voices settled on, Scott! I'm just starting to think about voice on my recent project. I've never really paid too much attention to it before. I always just feeling like I'm using "my" voice. But, this time, I want it to be more deliberate and see how that goes.

  4. Davin: I know what you mean, even though my last book wasn't in *my* voice per se. I still concentrated most on what people said and less on how they said it. This time I'm trying more with class and regional distinctions. It's interesting.