My ability to keep up with course readings continues to exist, and now I’m well on my way to actually achieving my goal of being ahead with readings. As such, I am also quite happy to stop studying around 6 or 7 in the evenings (I will lock in a time eventually just for consistency’s sake) to pick up drafting.
The issues that I’ve had with Tallulah are issues that have kept cropping up all throughout its development, and most of them pertain to the issue that many stories suffer from, which is that of how to make the Third Act a worthy finale, a satisfying payoff to what is hopefully an engaging setup.
I have decided that I’m not calling this next step Draft 2 anymore, after hearing my mother’s thoughts on the matter – she has different reasons for not calling anything past the First a Draft, but mine are that, well, ‘draft’ suggests something self-contained, and the process from here looks to be pretty serialised. So I’ll just call this the First Revision.
I thought I was getting somewhere when I finished this plan for the First Revision, and it’s too early to say definitively that I haven’t gotten somewhere. In fact, no, it’s totally unfair; I have gotten somewhere. It’s just that ‘somewhere’ has turned out to be a bit beyond my reach. I need a stepladder.
Currently, my stepladder is tangled in an enchanted hedge of thorns known as the Forest of Plot Overload.
I think that’s the issue, anyway.
The point is that, at this point, yes redundant word are redundant shut up it’s 12:11am, I am going around in circles, the path has looped back around upon itself, and the only thing that I can think of to break this cycle is to just write. No, the solution has not yet been found with regards to these recurring issues. But it’s not getting found either. It feels like I get closer every time I make a new plan, and for that reason mostly I want to keep planning in the hopes that I will just eventually stumble upon the solution through sheer effort, but what if it doesn’t happen at all?
Because my suspicion right now – more than a suspicion; my growing certainty – is that there actually is no way to resolve this mess, except for cleaning it up. The thing is that I already came to this conclusion, thought about making this book into a series, found what seemed to be a solution at the time, decided to keep it as one story, and then wrote out a plan for how to write that one story and this happened.
It could just be that the Huge Change I made was actually even Huger than I thought, of course, and that’s what’s throwing me off-balance. Perhaps the way I had it originally will work through willing suspension of disbelief – assuming I am able to craft an engaging enough story so that readers will want to suspend disbelief. I mean I’m a stickler for realism in a lot of ways so I don’t want to rely on it, but it is part of storytelling anyway. If there’s no willing suspension of disbelief, it’s not so much a story as an argument.
So perhaps that’s the solution – learning to trust that suspension of disbelief will actually come in when I need it to, and to just make my peace with it. I still want to be thorough enough to not need it, but it does actually sum up what my issues with the story are in its current state.
I would love to have a story where suspension of disbelief is not needed to make the story work. But there is some part of me, as a reader, that enjoys having to suspend disbelief to make a story work. Not if it’s too ridiculous, but it is something that I will totally do if I like the payoff enough, and if it’s done with good intentions – basically if it doesn’t feel like the story’s treating me like I’m stupid for letting it get away with whatever cheats or shortcuts it’s trying to get away with, then I’ll happily do a bit of imaginative labour on the story’s behalf.
Harry Potter, for example, I still love even though the issue of House Elf assassins was never broached – they can Apparate in and out of Hogwarts willy-nilly, pretty much, so you can’t tell me it can’t have been an option. Same deal with time-turners, the ultimate Deus ex Machina; it almost would have been better if they had just never been mentioned again, instead of having them all destroyed in Order of the Phoenix, just because it reminded us that they were a thing. Like Midi-Chlorians. Post-Menace, they never reared their ugly, magic-ruining heads again.
In fact Midi-Chlorians are pretty much the definitive example of taking the idea that suspension of disbelief is lazy storytelling that needs to be compensated for to the extreme. The Force was more of a symbol than a mechanic in the original films, and it operates by that logic even after Midi-Chlorians are introduced by way of explaining how the whole thing works – it actually ruins the whole thing, because now that there’s a scientific basis for The Force, it’s even more obvious that it’s a load of crap, because it’s not used scientifically; it’s used as a plot-device – it’s used narratively.
Then there are the times where it goes too far the other way, and most of them are pretty cliche – the whole thing with Uncle Ben dying just after he and Peter have had some kind of falling-out and they never got to resolve it; the thing where the young/adolescent protagonist keeps their parents in the dark about whatever horrible stuff they’re trying to deal with until it’s basically too late and then there’s a sort of Deus ex Machina ring to the whole affair; the thing where the protagonist has to do some arbitrary thing that really anybody could do and in fact there are generally much better-qualified people around who could do it instead because it’s their destiny – these all rely on willing suspension of disbelief to work.
To cite Harry Potter again, in The Philosopher’s Stone, Harry, Ron and Hermione decide not to tell Dumbledore what’s going on because … uh … what was it again?
Oh, right, because Ron said Dumbledore was probably testing them to see if they could handle it.
I mean don’t get me wrong, he may well have been doing exactly that, because Dumbledore’s a bit of an arrogant nutjob when you get right down to it, and for me it was just so hilarious upon re-reading it last year that I let it slide purely for amusement’s sake. But it is such a thinly-veiled plothole that one almost cannot help but glare at it accusingly, just to make sure it knows we disapprove, thoroughly, before moving on with the rest of the story.
It’s the issue of cliche that I’m dealing with now, and it is this issue that the Huge Change I made was meant to address – without the Huge Change it requires a similar kind of willing suspension of disbelief as the Harry Potter example. Not quite the same, but in the same vein. With the Huge Change, however …
Well, I don’t know. At least some of the tension disappears, or at least changes, and the stakes do not feel like they’re as high as they could be heading into the Third Act, by which point the stakes should be as high as they’re ever going to get. I know I say I try not to give writing advice, but this is how I know how to tell stories; I learnt about Fourth Cinema today though, and some generalised differences between written and oral traditions of storytelling, so after that I’m even more of an advocate of the Do Whatever You Want school of storytelling. But I’m talking about me as an audience member, too, and I like the three-act structure. I’m comfortable with it. I know it well.
Hence why I want these stakes to be sky-fricking-high to lead into the Third Act, and the Huge Change does away with that option.
I’ll trust that this is the core of the issue, and write my other First Revision plan that does not have the Huge Change, and see if the stakes feel a little better.
And see if I can trust that, even if I do have to rely on willing suspension of disbelief, I can still get there creatively, and that the answers will come if I just try and tell the story that I want to tell.