Saturday, March 6, 2021

Ever Have One of Those Chapters?


Scott D. Parker

We writers know all about the vicissitudes of writing prose, the good, the bad, the frustrating, and the glorious. Most of us know that for every valley in which we find ourselves mired in will soon vanish when we reach the mountaintop of “The End.”

There are, however, little victories along the way, and I experienced one this week. See if this rings true for you.

My current work in progress has been gestating on and off for about eight years. I completed Version 1.0 back in 2013 but stuck it in a drawer. I picked it up again a few years ago, but it still wasn’t gelling. Last fall, I picked up that 2013 printout, re-read it with a yellow notepad right next to me. Then, I completely revised the outline, exporting it onto 3x5 index cards that now live on the cork board in my writing room.

Those notecards carry the plot. They don’t always carry characterization. That’s for the writer, his fingers, and his imagination.

I’m something like 30,000+ into this story. I’m enjoying it, layering in the various threads for my awesome conclusion. And I’ve got a main character I really enjoy. She’s a woman of a certain age. One of her funny lines goes something like this. “You’re never supposed to ask a woman about her age. And there’s also a certain age when you’re not even supposed to guess.” 

I know her backstory and what makes her tick, but I reached a particular chapter in this book that ended up taking me the bulk of the week to complete. Why? Well, I ended up fighting with how the chapter was flowing versus the text I had written on the index card. I kept trying to steer the chapter toward what I had written on a 3x5 card last fall when I didn’t have the broader understanding of character in place. I kept hitting a wall, no matter what I did.

Finally, I relented. I stopped reading the card and just re-read the first half of the chapter. Then, picking up steam by the words I had written, I just let the two characters talk to each other.

Guess what? My lead became even more alive than before. So did the other character. They both were on a date, just talking to each other, in that typical getting-to-know-you vibe of all first dates. 

For me, my fictional protagonist became a real human this week. And boy am I excited to continue on with the story.

Y’all have chapters like that?

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