Edit or Rebuild?
As I mentioned in my last post, The Work of Writing, I decided to undertake a complete edit of my one novel Born of Water. I really like the story and think it stands a chance to be published someday, but something was missing. Becoming my own harsh critic, I pulled the novel apart to get a feel for the point of each chapter and the POVs.
After stacking up each chapter into piles based on POV, I realized a few things. The first was that the second largest number of chapters was in the POV of a character whose role I couldn’t really define. Lavinia is obviously important but somehow the story never fleshes out her role all that well (I mentioned I needed some character development work!). The second realization was that the character who is the instigator for the entire story, Ria, had no entire chapter in her voice (just portions). Yeah, this needs work.
But I was still struggling with getting inside of each of the four main character’s heads (I will ignore the fact that they are already in my head, as it just creates a strange connotation of mirrors reflecting each other or existential questions on who is real). Sure, I had places in the novel where I knew I had glossed over the real reaction of a character to a situation. But I still couldn’t look the characters in the eye. I still don’t know them beyond what I need them to be.
So after about 5 years on the wagon, I picked up my drawing pencils. I don’t know why I haven’t been motivated to draw for years upon years. I haven’t sketched a human figure for nearly a decade that I can think of. But suddenly, I wanted to really flesh out the people who live in my mind beyond images cultivated from web searches for appropriately featured people. I can’t say that the result is worth framing (boy I need some practice!), but it helped.
Drawing out the figures now I can see that Lavinia is the glue that holds back the anger of her brother and bridges to the slightly spoiled attitude of Ria. Without her, the journey would not happen. Niri, with her outward calm, still has internal battles ahead (along with the external!). So, I can say now that I know so much more about the characters in my novel. Well, the main four.
That still left their world. I was already finding pieces of plot that would need to be tweaked. Ty is angrier than in the current version. Niri is more difficult. Lavinia . . . you get the picture. But what about the towns they visit, the other cultures they run into? Well, I finally found a use for that composition book I’ve had setting around.
I’ve created a rebuild data warehouse. Towns, cultures, plot highlights, world rules are all listed and being fleshed out. The places the four visit no longer come into being when they arrive to fade away the moment the main characters depart like cheap sets. They have histories and stories of their own. This is world building. Characters that play a trivial role come from cultures more exotic than I had ever imagined in the first draft – and will play a more important role in the sequel should I ever get that far.
So I have to admit to myself. This is no mere edit. This is a rebuild using the first version as a guidebook. I’m not even close to starting to flesh out the first chapter anew – maybe a week or more? First, I’m still spending time getting to know the world and characters I vaguely imagined before. Hopefully, when the stage is set this time, the story will evolve without needing any cues.