Hey there! Who's still with me on this squidgy, super-unspecific revision model that's taking me months to write? Okay, all two of you, we are working our way down the iceberg, and here we are at the next installment, all about creating connections within the work. (If you missed the first two installments and are dying to read them, you can find them here and here.)
Connectedness is at the heart of a great reading experience, because we, as social animals, crave connectedness with each other and with the world around us. Stories reflect this need for connectedness, the idea that one event leads to another leads to another until we reach an inevitable climactic moment and achieve catharsis. There's a great YouTube video of Matt Stone and Trey Parker (the creators of South Park) talking about this very concept.
Here's another analogy: Brownies. Those tasty, chocolate-y desserts. They require flour, sugar, eggs, cocoa powder, etc. (Stay with me here!) If I were to set those ingredients out on a table and tell you, "Voila! Brownies!" You would say to me, "Uh, Megan, I'm not seeing any brownies." And you would be correct. I have the ingredients for brownies, but there are no brownies in sight.
The same can be said for your earliest drafts. This happens and then this happens and then this happens. But none of those pieces are connected. Those pieces have not achieved brownie-dom. The ingredients have to be combined in just the right way and baked at just the right temperature and cooled for the correct length of time before you have a book/pan o' brownies. In other words, this event happens; therefore, the character responds to it, and here is the result. But something happens, so this happens. Therefore. But. NEVER and then. One thing leads to the next thing leads to the next thing so that all events and ideas and metaphors in your book combine to create an interconnected reading confection. So basically, revision = baking brownies. Except revision is a lot harder and doesn't taste as good.
As I've been working my way through the revision of the first few chapters of my secret wip, I've been noticing a lot of opportunities to make connections. The experiences of the two points-of-view now dovetail as their actions on opposites sides of a continent affect each other in subtle ways, even though neither of them knows the other exists at this point. In the first chapter, the protagonist does one small and seemingly insignificant thing, but that small thing leads to the beginning of a war between two religious factions. That one small thing results in the other point-of-view being sent on a secret mission that will inevitably lead to him to the protagonist. That one small thing answers the question that every novel asks its author: Why now?
But connectedness is more than that. Yes, one action or reaction must lead to the next action or reaction. That creates a line, the spine of your book. But just as there's more to your body than a spine, there's more to a book than the through-line of the plot. All pieces of the story must connect to the rest of your book--the flesh and blood and bone that gives the spine meaning--and we achieve that level of connectedness through metaphor and theme.
Hey, guess what the next installments of this blog series are about? Metaphor and Theme! (Nice segue, Megan!)
Stay tuned ...