I Wanna Be There When it Happens

Post Date: April 15th, 2012

My novel, subject of a major rewrite, is changing in one specific way: the story is putting you the reader into events, as they happen.

Because my story deals with a controversial subject–sexual abuse–and because I originally imagined the story as a girl coming to terms with haunting memories, I struggled to re-envision it as part of the present story. But my agent, Sarah Heller, convinced me to see what happens when readers experience things alongside Wendy. It’s a brave choice for Wendy to suffer abuse in the present. It is not a piece of her past that she is actively recovering from; it’s the trauma of the present moment.

I say “brave” because I have to write this well. More can be said with less, and things can be haunting without being graphic.

I also say “brave” because I don’t take lightly the trauma that so many survivors, male and female, have suffered, suffer now, and will suffer because predators walk among us, earn our trust, and get away with their horror.

In her blog post, “Writing Fiction: The Two Nows Structure,” author Charlotte Rains Dixon recommends several strategies for novel structure when you’re dealing with heavy back story. I could have stayed with the back story, but

Sometimes I have wistful moments, even panicked moments, where I think, I’ve missed my calling. I am better at episodic, meandering character explorations. You shoulda written for HBO, Showtime, or any sitcom. I can watch a favorite show and tell you when other writers are stepping in or running things; I can see from the timing or lack thereof in repartee, from changes in character voice and development, that there’s a new sheriff in town. I love collaboration and co-authoring; I would have teamed well with a pack of writers making a show.

But I’m not doing that. In the years when I could have scrapped my way into TV, I chose teaching instead. And there, I was part of the village that shapes the character of teens.

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