It’s close, but not close enough.
I’m supposed to be writing, but not here. Writing here does me very little good, actually. Oh, it would be fun to talk about the lovely Christmas we had and how thankful I am that no one here got that nasty stomach flu until today, but really, that’s not going to help me at all.
No, what I’m supposed to be working on is the first five chapters of Bound. I thought it was done, I really did, but so much rests on those first few pages. I’ve been very fortunate to have a few helpful critiques on the first chapter (posted on Scribophile.com)- some comments I agreed with, some I didn’t, but all were helpful. Generally, people like how the story looks, they like the first main character I’ve introduced, they have no problems with my grammar, spelling, or dialogue. One person had nothing negative to say at all, really. Another pointed out that I do too much telling, and that… that, I agree with.
It’s hard, you know, creating a world and then setting a story in it. Wait… that’s not quite right. Creating a world is amazing and fun, and I can’t imagine putting this particular story anywhere else. No, what’s hard is getting a reader to understand this world you’ve created without dropping giant Acme anvils of information and background on their heads, which does tend to distract from the story somewhat.
Here’s my problem right now: I have this lovely world with magic. Sorcerers, dragons, flying horses and winged people, spells and enchantments and mysteries. And I have a country right smack in the middle where the people hate magic. They’re terrified of it, actually. And across the mountains I have people who almost take it for granted… and there’s a war brewing between the two. I have a missing king and connections to our world and a magic system with details and rules and consequences. I understand all of this. But I need to make my reader understand it, too, without turning the book into a history lesson.
There seem to be two main ways I could go about this- two ways I’ve seen it done, and two ways it’s been suggested that I accomplish it. The first is to say, “screw it, take your history lesson and like it.” It would probably be shoved in after something exciting enough to (hopefully) hook the reader has happened. The advantage, of course, is that people have no excuse for not knowing what’s going on. The disadvantage is HELLO BORING.
Option 2: Just get on with the story and trust that readers will follow along until it makes sense within the story for me to answer the questions that will undoubtedly pile up. How can someone control another person’s mind, or change into an animal? Where does the magic come from? Why don’t all people have it? Where did these magic-haters come from? I might tell you if it’s important, but you’ll have to be patient. Just accept it on a “because I said so” basis for now. This seems like the better option. I trust my readers’ intelligence.
So here I am, trying to figure out how to get the immediately-important information out there without having my main character just telling us about it. Not that that would be a problem, mind you; Rowan loves to talk. Drives other people crazy with it. It would be much more interesting to see these things, though- to show her people’s attitudes toward magic in action rather than have her tell us, “BTW, my people, like, totally hate the magics.” *
What does this mean? It means that I might be almost completely scrapping a beautiful opening scene that has too much telling and doesn’t let me show much. It means that in amongst all of this showing, I need to give the reader reasons to keep going- because another thing I have is a young woman who doesn’t want to get married, and though it’s important to the story and to her as a character, I’m aware that this is an issue for a metric tonne of Young adult heroines. She’s going to get past that little issue quickly, but still… I can’t risk people going, “Ugh, this shit again. Booooring…” and leaving before the whole kidnapping/being rescued by a bad guy thing happens. Because believe me, it only gets better from there.
So OK, here I go. Scrap most of opening scene, re-write other bits… throw in a brand new scene in town with more people to interact with and get information from… possibly change the entire dynamic of her relationship with the guy she’s supposed to be marrying to place less emphasis on that situation (but not too little, because we do need our dear heroine to give up on her childhood dreams for the time being- sigh).
I know, I’m rambling. But really, if you’re reading this, you probably already knew that I’m a bit nuts.
Wish me luck. This is the easy part.
*No, I don’t let my people talk like that. In case you were wondering. -_