Friday, February 10, 2017

Big Picture and Making the Puzzle Pieces Fit

When writing, it's hard to see the big picture. Especially if you're a pantser and don't know how the story will get to the end!

One thing writers are occasionally encouraged to do is to write a summary before writing the story. Since summaries are often required as part of the submission process, this can get one of the hardest parts of the process out of the way first, while also helping the writer focus on the end goal.

Let's face it, it's easy to fall down rabbit holes while writing. Next thing you know, the sidequest has overshadowed the entire plot! Or a character has abandoned her entire motivation to chase down a wiley wabbit. Summaries are a good tool to keep your eye on the prize as you're writing, because it keeps you focused on the main plot you first wanted.
Scenes that don't work towards the big picture
are very distracting. Case in point:
will you remember the view, or the spider?

But some people don't write well from summaries. Or they discover the rabbit hole was what the story was all about in the first place, and the 'main plot' was a less important story than what the wiley wabbit is doing tunneling underneath the city.

So it's important to do a "big picture" read before beginning edits, too. Put aside everything else, read the story, and decide how well each scene pushes towards the big picture presented by the end of the story. Is this scene necessary? Does it get the reader closer to the end of the story, or is it just a fun scene? Maybe it seems important to a side element of the plot, but if it doesn't drive the story forward, sometimes it's better to just cut the scene entirely.

Of course, if it's just a fun scene, but you really like it, there's option 3: MAKE it relevant.

Once you've finished a draft, you know where the book is supposed to go. Seed in some foreshadowing. Add in something to the background that fills in a plothole (When did Robert and Dr. Gupta actually have the chance to meet to decide they were going to conspire to protect Nji? At the wedding, of course! In the background, when Nji passes them chatting by the buffet). Throw in some dialogue that buffs up the conflict. Or a chance reference that turns out to hint at the solution.

Of course that's not a miracle cure. Your clues and foreshadows and plothole fixers have to add enough to make the scene important to the story, and still keep the scene interesting. And if your word count is high, you're making problems instead of solving them. And if there's no action, then for heaven's sakes, cut it! Nobody needs another "reflecting in the shower" scene. Not unless that moment of reflection is when Dr. Gupta notices the alien spider crawling out of the showerhead and has to destroy its nest with a flamethrower.

But sometimes changing the details to make an extraneous scene fit more neatly into the big picture can solve some other problems while allowing you to include the fun things that give your characters extra depth.

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