First, I want to thank Sherri Ann DeLost for inspiring me, by actually doing a storyboard. I hadn’t worried that my story timelines wouldn’t be securely matched in my mind as I wrote, until recently. One of my characters was lingering in his thoughts and being told he may have to spend some time in different behaviors than originally expected. That, in turn, would change the timeline from the perspective of the third character. Sherrie’s announcement of success with poster board reminded me that I needed to physically draw out my story’s timeline. My current work is telling a story from three perspectives and though I could wait to fix incongruities in a rewrite, it will be easier if the timeline meshes during my draft. I started my storyboard by cutting a couple pieces of butcher paper, and tacking the double layer (no marks or bleeds)to a well-lit wall. Then, I quickly reread my draft looking for the timeline, and took notes charting the story by weeks. I quickly found a flaw. The early part of my story was keeping to real events which no longer make sense in my fictional story. After reviewing the events week by week, it made a better story to reduce from fifteen weeks to thirteen weeks and change an event from week two to week six. The quick fix on the timeline, however, leads to a complete rewrite of the first point of view of the story. Luckily, with my new timeline poster on my wall, I can easily change ‘two weeks passed’ to ‘one week and one day later’ and ‘the next week’ to ‘that weekend’ while I get my timeline to mesh. With my chart, I can now feel secure as I delve into each character’s point of view. Now, I have a tool to make notes where my new scenes fit and chart how they could interact for my next rewrite. The plot of a story exists within time. Physically plotting out a timeline early in the planning, or first draft process, can create an anchor for a writer to hold a story together as s/he reaches for larger risks. I had a roll of butcher paper, but you can use what you have ; broken down boxes;taped together scrap paper; recycle; just make it big.
Today, I was going to post about my grandfather’s memoirs, including many pictures of him in uniform. He self-published, primarily for the family, the year before he died. I was researching a link to his work at the Smithsonian, when I was completely derailed by a signed copy of his book for sale online. Abebooks.com asked more than twice the original value for a signed copy from a library. At first I was excited to see the book for sale with a 5 star rating, but then I realized the five stars were for the condition quality which made me want to buy it and march it back to the library it came from and demand it was put back on the shelf.
Want to make me not at all interested in a character? Describe him, or her as beautiful and rich. I gave up on Mary Higgins Clark’s mysteries in middle school because I just couldn’t care about the plight of the wealthy, beautiful people any more. Isn’t it enough that they cover the screens of our T.V.s and movie theaters; that they create enough scandals to fill tabloids week after week? Honestly, do they have to pollute our fiction as well? This last week, I read a novel which included a very beautiful woman planning her wedding. Her father was a billionaire, of course, who had two helicopters. She went to have a moment to herself in a bar, but she had to keep refusing drinks from strangers because she was so beautiful. Then when her fiancé saw her before the wedding she was even more beautiful. Really? There was more beautiful to go? What did that add? One thing Americans learned through the economic collapse was that only 1% of the population holds the wealth. Now think of how many of those people would be described as beautiful. I would say the fictional population is a pretty skewed subset of our population. And the perfect character problem does not only reside among the beautiful that are wealthy. There are also the perfectly skilled. Why would I want to read a story about a person who went to battle school and never lost a battle from his first day? Why would he go to battle school when he had nothing to learn? These perfect characters have nowhere to go and nothing to overcome which makes for a boring story. But worse than that, there is just no relating to them. I realize that some people like to fantasize about being some mass produced beauty aesthetic with unlimited resources and adoration, but when those stories are over the reader is left with an empty feeling of ineptitude. As a writer, one wants to hook the reader by creating ways for the reader to relate to the characters. Give your character some adult acne, back pain, a car that breaks down when it is least convenient, bills that are always due and an out of work family member on the couch and your writing might resonate with the not as privileged 99.75%.