Re-visioning a story


I’m working through the edits of the Anneth story, and it was turning into a bit of a slog … I’ve been through it so many times that the story had gone a bit stale on me and I didn’t know where I was going with it. The river had run dry, and for a long time I thought I was on a hiding to nothing. Even working through Holly Lisle’s ‘How to Revise Your Novel’ course wasn’t lighting my fire, and though it was sparking a lot of new ideas and perspectives on the story that I’d either forgotten or not considered before, I was pretty much using the story as an exercise before using the tools I was learning on a ‘real’ story that I was still interested in.

But then I had one of those moments.

It was, apparently, completely unconnected … I was thinking about a textile project, and the use of vision as a way of expressing a personal and creative way of imagining, expressing, and revealing and how that links into the realms of fantasy and dream. (And that’s a whole other story …) And whilst I was meandering my way through those thoughts, it occured to me that revision actually meant re-vision – to revisit or look again at an idea or image OR STORY, and analyse, examine, refine and re-interpret the original idea underlying that piece of work.

And so I came again to Anneth, thinking in those terms … and I saw that a river still runs through.

I just needed to look at it in a different way. To get back to my original intentions, to re-examine them, and figure out whether that was *still* the story I wanted to write. Broadly, it is – but from a slightly different perspective. I want to cut it down … to focus it more tightly on what matters, to bring certain elements and themes more to the front of the story.

One of the things that I had of huge priority in my initial notes was that I wanted to explore the idea of the anti-feminine … to overturn the image of the feminine as soft and nurturing, and to look at it in terms of a darker force, more formidable, implacable and almost pitiless in its determinations and desires (though not in an evil or negative way – just ‘other’) … and this got lost somewhere along the way. I need to bring that back in. The same goes for the idea of a faith-based society, where faith is a personal, intimate relationship with the deity, rather than one filtered through dogma and religious hierarchy – and again, this got lost along the way. Instead, I’m seeing a huge amount of contradictions, and a lot of vacillation between one extreme and another that is neither relevant nor resolved.

It’s hardly a surprise that I was feeling that this story was doomed.

A big part of this was my involvement with the world – I created it, and I wanted to explore it with my characters … and so they end up travelling vast distances and visiting all sorts of different and exciting locations. And it’s only when I come to analysing all these different settings, and feeling so utterly daunted by their complexity and sheer number, that I start thinking in terms of ‘what if?’ – what if I centre everything on one setting, more or less? How does that impact the story? Effectively, it concentrates the conflicts, because there are less distractions. It forces me to focus on the critical story elements and how that unfolds when there aren’t massive scenery shifts to set them against … and brings me back closer to the story I want to be telling, and the elements and themes I want to bring closer to the surface. It eliminates distractions. It subdues the background ‘noise’. Yes, it means I have to lose or dramatically change some of my favourite scenes to make them work as a whole, but taking the pros and cons together it’s looking like a win.

And brings me to a critical balancing point.

One of point of view.

I wrote the story in first person. I wanted it to read like a personal narration of the events, and for the reader to be involved in the central character’s battle for vindication in the face of almost universal suspicion and doubt … but too much time in that same headspace with the central questions unresolved – and unresolvable until the final series of confrontations – made the story rather circular in nature because the lack of resolution limited the character’s ability to evolve and progress to a large extent. Again – what if?

What if I shift out of first person, and use third? What if I expand into some of the other characters? If I maintain a level of ambiguity between the central character’s sustained protestations of innocence against the evidence accumulating against her, does it add a level of suspense to the story that wasn’t there before? It’s a BIG change of emphasis, but it’s one that I can see working … being more fun – because as it stands, we know she’s innocent because we *see* that she’s not guilty. If we don’t see everything, then without undermining her by making her an unreliable narrator in first, then there’s always that element of chance that she just might not be all she *appears* to be. It’s an interesting change to make – a big but subtle shift in emphasis and focus. And a huge amount of work, which the lazy-arse in me (that eagerly promoted cutting down the settings) is already grumbling about.

It’s not a change I’m committed to, yet. But it presents some interesting possibilities, not least in promoting some of the less prominent characters who play a *much* bigger role in the second book in the series and making their story arcs more relevant than they are currently.

What matters most, to me, though, is that by substituting ‘editing’ for ‘re-vision’ in my approach to this piece of work, that I’ve re-ignited my interest in the story, tapped back into the source. And that’s given me back my enthusiasm for this story … and that *has* to be a good thing … after all, if I can’t care for it, who else will?


2 Responses to “Re-visioning a story”

  1. 1 Erin

    Congrats on the re-visioning. I have to admit to being a bit of a lazy arse myself. I’m prone to say, “Well, it’s not what I thought I was writing, but I’d rather send this out and start over, trying to get closer to what I wanted.” (Because, you know, writing is much less work than tearing something to pieces and building it up again!)

    Everything you’ve said about the story sounds exciting. I look forward to being able to buy it and read it someday. 😀

  2. Thanks! I very much hope that, one day, you can 🙂

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