Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Plot surgery on the fly

I was going to send my fantasy characters on a hunt. If you've been following my Pinterest picture board, you've seen the handful of hunting-related photos I've been staring at.

Hunts, in stories, are usually where an accident (which always turns out to not be an accident) happens and somebody dies. I wasn't going to do that, but I got to within a couple scenes of sending them out into the woods and... my gut told me we don't need this, it'll only get in the way.

A clean snick of a sword and the hunt didn't happen. On further reflection, here's how I know my gut is right:

Cutting it has zero impact on the plot
Which was a dead give-away that the scenes were useless. They mainly addressed relationship development. And even then...

Cutting it has almost zero impact on the character arcs
Almost zero. There's one relationship that will need more work, as a result of the cut, but it's not my first-person narrator's relationship so it wasn't the main focus in any case. My narrator can see other parts of that relationship happening in other contexts, though. I'm confident I can get it in someplace. But most importantly...

It would've promised something I wasn't going to deliver on
Unlike real life, fiction is supposed to make sense. And as much as I dislike Chekhov's law (because it makes story-telling predictable) everybody knows it on a gut level and readers expect that topics introduced have a reason to be there.

The topic doesn't have to be tied to the plot, but the more time you spend on it the more expectations get attached to it. Just seeing a gun doesn't have to mean someone will get shot. It could be a piece of character history or world-building. Characters could talk about the gun in order to develop that. I would have no problem with the gun then being put on the mantle and never touched again.

But if a character takes it down and loads it, now you're committed to using it. If someone notices it's missing, it had better turn up in a significant way.

My hunting scene would have spent time on something that would not have later turned up in a significant way. I don't intend to be a sloppy writer, so snick. Gone.

What do you think of Chekhov's law?

1 comment:

Liz said...

That was the main problem with my first novel (which I'm going to go back and fix one of these days)--too many scenes that didn't really effect the plot.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...