Week 7

Lots of writing this weekend. I continued working up my story, in particular what all the books call a "conflict", or the incident which represents an obstacle to the protagonist's goal. It's an opposition that runs like a strand throughout the story, tightening and relaxing its grip until one fatal act. I started describing my plot at a writers' meeting last week, and Chris said to me, "but what does she do next?". It was a simple question, but pretty galling. I didn't know.

It's hard not to simplify things when you sum up a story that's percolating in your head. The act of synopsis is inherently reductive. Explaining a sprawling, complicated thing (see my story board, below) in one succinct sentence is like a director blocking out a play, all positioning and no substance.

But even so, I realised my story was too thematic: too much talk about concepts like "fantasy", "reality" and (my pet hate) "society", and not enough individual actions. It's easy to know what you want to say, but how to tell it is another matter. And not telling it, but showing it through the actions and thoughts of another is the way to go.

I wonder if that's the lot of a new writer, who's so keen to make their mark, and get their point across rather than write a story. I came across some pointers by Amanda Patterson, which suggest that's the case:

"* Beginners have no antagonist * First time writers have no plot * Beginners do not have enough dialogue"

Hmm. So I spent the weekend rewriting my main character, trying to make those themes tangible. Scratch "fantasy"; what does she want, dream about? What exactly is stopping her ("reality")? Who is "society": a friend, family, who? It’s hard writing these ideas, as they force you to come up with scenes, and situations, and even dialogue in some cases. Who, you say? Okay, her Auntie Norah. It’s my first idea, and I write it, but it doesn’t seem right somehow, not up to my expectations for this book.

I've nudged the conflict a bit, heightened one aspect and the story seems to click into place a bit better now. My main character has a problem that touches her at every turn, and I'm starting to know how she’ll react every time I turn up the pressure. She has parents that aren't a veiled version of my own. She thinks in a different way to me. Slowly, because of my work on the conflict and a plot, her character is starting to lift off the page.

The detail feels dangerous, though – that by deciding the flock of wallpaper or the phrasing of a sentence, I’m crossing out all alternatives, finally pinning down all the hand waving about themes and meanings, and giving my characters a name, a place of work, a problem. Sounds stupid I know, but this is where it gets scary.

And exciting.

Word count this week: 1,789 Running total: 11,095