Note to Self: It’s Not the Plot
I swear I’ve been here before.
I’m working with this draft of Book 3, and I’ve been revising along pretty steadily from the beginning, knocking out characters and scenes, deepening what remains, and I’ve reached a place where Gaia gets out of trouble. She can catch her breath for a minute, which is obviously a disaster as far as writing goes. The two of us sit back and look ahead at the next few scenes, and the links between them are simply not there. In fact, all of the rest of the book appears to have a random quality. The scenes make sense within themselves. Some are quite convincingly grueling, even. But the underlying threads to keep them all together are not tight.
I think this is what my editor observed when she advised me to consider Gaia’s motivation in this book. I know what her motivation is. At heart, it is “fight evil.” But that isn’t enough.
This is what I’ve realized just now, and it’s connected to “Nothing’s Going to Harm You” from Sweeney Todd which I listened to while I was stationary biking this morning. I don’t like that musical. I couldn’t even watch the movie. But the song has haunted me since I first heard it years ago, and when I listen to it now, I find its peculiar combination of sweetness and menace so disturbing. I think, the man who wrote that song and that musical was willing to go to some very, very creepy places in his mind.
That’s where I want to go. Not, of course, into Sondheim’s mind, but into my own dark, squeamish corners. That’s where I need to go for Book 3. My problem is not the plot. I can’t solve this book by lining up the events and bolstering the connections between them. I need to push deeper into the characters and find out how I can hurt them psychologically. I have to find the costs there.
I don’t have my solutions yet, but I know where to go looking for them now. This is not going to be a fast fix.