Monday, November 28, 2011

A sense of urgency

So I share 30 pages of Threadcaster at a time with a few close friends and mentors. They are all extremely patient with me - especially since I keep rewriting and rewriting things they've already seen, but it's their feedback that makes it necessary possible. Yesterday I got such a piece of feedback from fellow author Peter H Green. He said "Everything flows fine but there is no sense of urgency. You've got the pull toward the goal, but I don't feel any push."

Sense of Urgency huh? This posed a dilemma. My story has plenty of conflict starting around page 65... but up to that point it's getting to know the characters and getting used to the world they live in. I 100% believe this is a good thing - my world is complicated, it has rules and traditions the reader must understand to follow the rest of the story. Still a lack of urgency is a very real problem and it does not a good writer make if you ignore the input of your betas just because it's a little work.

So I thought about ways to build urgency - how about a villain actively working against the players through the plot? No... I do have villains but they are very powerful people who's leverage on the beginning of the book would probably keep our reluctant hero from agreeing to go without three pages of combatant dialog. No, the Brushcasters need to stay where they are.

What about a ticking clock? A time limit would impose some urgency and up Cat and Peter's emotional dilemma because a rush to save the world is a rush to put poor Pete in an early grave. That could do... it can't just be contrived though. I need to find a way to get it in without it creating an audience perceived False Urgency. Otherwise known as the "Just'cuz"es.

A "Just'cuz" is when an author's fingers start to show. "Why did he do that?" Author - "Just because." "Why did he decide to go there?" Author -"Just 'cause". "It was extremely lucky that he went to that town to run into the next action scene." - "Yeah, I needed him there for the plot"

The Just'cuzzes are as bad a disease as the Yes-mans and the Bamboo Traps. These things pander to the audience and insult their intelligence. I needed to find an integrated way to up the intensity that isn't Lady Creven saying "'By the way, I'd like you to complete this dangerous journey in about a week... Thursday's my only free day, you see. Does that fit in your schedule?" So what solution did I decide to employ? Well... it's all a matter of festivity.

I've had an elaborate backstory for a while now, but I took it out of the book because a large part of it had nothing to do with Cat. It still doesn't, really, but it has a lot to do with the rest of her world. I used the backstory as a stage and invented this great big huge festival in which the people of the Valley try to fulfill the same prophecy Cat and Peter are trying to fulfill in the book. This festival takes place on a specific day and time - the only day and time that "success" can take place. Unfortunately that festival day is a week away. Cat's going to have to hurry to keep the world from dying.

This solution is super. I can use the festival theme throughout as Cat moves from town to town. We see the decorations going up; the signs and festivities and how hopeful the people are that this will finally work. Little do they know that Cat's the one REALLY trying to fulfill the prophecy and the Brushcasters are actively trying to stop her. It gives us a C story that is separate from Cat's main quest but parallel so I don't have to cut away to any sidescenes. I've already implemented it up to a point. I have a little more rewriting to do before it's done... but I think I'm content. It definitely gets the beginning of the quest to go a bit faster.

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