Thursday, April 29, 2010

[Book Update] Chapter 6 - The Joy, The Rapture!

I've had a love/hate thing going on with Chapter 6 now for a while, as regular readers are well aware. It's a critical chapter, or, at least, the information in it is vital for the reader to really understand and appreciate key aspects of the world the story takes place in. It's a world much like our own, but with certain incredible differences that are the basis for the entire novel.

Originally, Chapter 6 was about an 8-10 page infodump. Let's call it around 14 pages double-spaced. It had no dialogue, very little action, and didn't even have a Point-of-View character as my other chapters all have. It was narration, taking the reader through big chunks of the past 50 years of the novel's timeline.

With that said, I never hated Chapter 6. I was never completely convinced that it worked, but neither did I feel that, as a whole, it failed. It needed some work, that's all.

I took it to my writer's group, and the overwhelming feedback was that it needed all the things it had (deliberately) lacked - characterization, dialogue, action. I don't religiously follow the feedback I get from the group, but since I knew I was struggling with Chapter 6, I took their critique under careful advisement. I set out to strip Chapter 6 down to the basics and rewrite it to incorporate those missing story elements.

The result was the birth of Chapter 6b, followed soon after by Chapter 6c. In Chapter 6b I attempted to use some storytelling techniques to deliver some of the information. Specifically, I created a classroom environment and shared a couple of student essays with the reader. It sort of worked, but with some significant issues: each individual essay conveyed generally too little of the information I needed to get across, plus they were tedious to read to the point where I immediately decided that I needed to cut one. This frustrated me, so I set Chapter 6b aside and moved on to Chapter 6c, which offered a new set of challenges and a fresh array of opportunities unspoiled by student essays that didn't perform up to my expectations.

I ended up liking 6c a lot by the time it was done. It contained around 80% of the key information from the original chapter 6, but I'd managed to wrap about half of it around two character-driven stories. There was still a sizeable section of narrative infodump, but even most of that at least was able to lean on the characters I'd just introduced, which I think served to make it more appealing. I also expanded some of the story's history, which served to add depth and clarity to certain aspects of the novel in ways that I think work very well.

Here's the kicker, though - Chapter 6c was almost 22 double-spaced pages long. By itself it was 50% longer than the original chapter. And I still wasn't done with Chapter 6b.

Well, now I am done with Chapter 6b. I kept one essay and will probably edit it some more to make it more interesting, and I didn't end up conveying a ton of the info from the original Chapter 6. BUT, I introduced a key antagonist and through him provided a great deal of information that's relevant to the rest of the story.

A second kicker arises, however - Chapter 6b is also almost 22 double-spaced pages long. Little old Chapter 6 has exploded from a mere 14 pages to a whopping 42+ pages in length. Oh, and I don't really know where to put Chapter 6b in the book. Chronologically it falls prior to anything that's yet happened, yet I don't think I want to start the book with it. I'm going to need to figure out where it goes, though, because it's done, I like it, and I plan to use it.

Let the revels commence! Chapter 6 is dead. Long live Chapter 6!

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