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Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Increasing the Experiential Nature of Writing

As a new writer, everyday is a learning experience for me. I decided to share a little tidbit that I just picked up. I apologize to those experienced writers who may find this a kind of duh moment.

As I finished a 248,000 word manuscript, the first reaction of someone looking at all that paper might be, "Gee, were you verbose enough?" Surprisingly, the answer was "No!".

In trying to cram a very long story arc into a single book, I rushed in numerous places. I realized that, "This thing is getting way too long." I ended up taking the quick route, especially in the beginning, not taking the time to allow the reader to truly "experience" the story. This was never so apparent as when I took the story and started splitting it into a serial novel, about 4 installments (at this point in time). Okay, I have to admit at this point, that perhaps the kind senior editor at Brighter Books led me down the path a bit (imagine stubborn donkey with nose-ring being pulled).

The thing you need to know about the clips I am about to show you is that people in these clips are telepathic and can receive mental images via a computer called the Guardian. The stars at the beginning of the paragraph mean that they are receiving a mental image or are having a virtual experience. I apologize in advance for how long these clips are.

----------Original Clip-----
“Yeah, Teach,” answers Tyco.

Elof2 places his hands on the Guardian Interface and links.

* “Contact made with Elof2, Tyco, and Ty,” announces Guardian.

* “Guardian, show everyone the clip about hyperspace that I have prepared,” commands Elof2.

* “Are you sure this is wise, Elof2?” warns Guardian. “The clip is very intense and painful.”

* “Go ahead Guardian”.

Ty and Tyco begin to scream as if they are being slowly slaughtered by some animal.

* “End the clip, Guardian,” commands Elof2.

* “Confirmed Elof2.”

Everyone takes their hands off of the Guardian Interface. Tyco is badly shaken up and Ty is gently crying. Tyco’s chair floats up off the floor, moves over close to Ty and sets back down.

Elof2 watches the chair, somewhat surprised. “Well Tyco, that is a new talent.”

Tyco looks down surprised and says, “Huh, yeah, I guess it is.”

Tyco puts a hand on Ty’s shoulder. “Come on. Don’t wimp out on me now. It wasn’t really like it was happening to us.”

Ty, with tears on his face, says, “I felt with certainty that I was there. It hurt so badly. My skin was burning yet I was so cold. It was profoundly dark and lonely.”

“Yeah, it looked like smoke was coming up off my skin,” smirks Tyco.

-------End of Clip------

Unfortunately, it wasn't really happening for the reader either. It was a very efficient way of communicating what happened. But it was "newspaper'ish". After the fact news.

-----Corrected Clip-------

“Yeah, Teach,” answers Tyco.

(:::The connection, why will this event have an impact on the characters' lives :::)

Ty experiences a wave of fear every time he places his hands on the Guardian Interface. He fears that the faint tingling he feels will turn into excruciating pain as the device sucks the life out of him. He does not trust devices built by humans or their evolutionary descendents. One slight mistake on their part, in what seems to him to be primitive technology, could end his short life. It also worries Ty that he can feel Tyco’s aggression heightening every time he is stimulated by the device, as if Tyco is a lizard moving in for the kill. Ty hides his sudden startle as he feels the light caress of an invisible hand brushing his hair.

(::: The mystery to entice the reader to enter the experience :::)

* For a fraction of a second, invisible Stefan is linked to Ty and says, “It will be okay, little Ty; I know your story and it doesn’t end here. Hide my presence; Elof2 needs to build his confidence.”

(::: The experience from each character's point of view :::)

* “Contact made with Elof2, Tyco, and Ty,” announces Guardian.

* “Guardian, show everyone the clip about hyperspace that I have prepared,” commands Elof2.

* “Are you sure this is wise, Elof2?” warns Guardian. “The clip is very intense and painful.”

* “Go ahead Guardian”.

* Ty and Tyco feel they have been plunged into a frozen lake of total blackness, with only a faint glimmer of light illuminating them. Ty, having never experienced pain in his entire life, struggles and screams frantically, only to have the sound absorbed by the black void. Tyco, while crying from the pain, is paradoxically exhilarated by it, feeling a ferocious hunger to find and kill whatever is causing is causing him to hurt. Elof2, while struggling to maintain his composure, is being faced with his nightmare vividly as it appears that both Ty and Tyco are dissolving, with the mist rising from their bodies being sucked into hyperspace. He can bare it no longer.

* “End the clip, Guardian,” commands Elof2.

* "Confirmed, Elof2."

(::: How did the characters internalize the experience. What did it mean to them? :::)

(::: The clip from here on is the same as the original. :::)

----End of modified clip----

Naturally, when I wrote the modified clip for the serial, I didn't think of the steps I outlined. But since it was a particularly painful transition for me to learn how to write like this, I thought it was useful to go back and figure out what I had done in the end. I'm sure there are more experienced writers who have better ideas on how to do this. But I thought what I learned might serve as a stepping stone for those of us just learning the craft.

( For those who like cliffhangers, I haven't finished the serialization. So I am sure there will be more discoveries. )

1 comment:

  1. And when you make those discoveries, I hope you find a lot of joy in them. Discovering new stuff along the way of correcting what we've written can be one of the most rewarding parts of revision.

    Here, have a Versatile Blogger award. I gave it to you on my blog.