Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Because, I Said So

I did something this past week I haven't done in a good long while -- I wrote myself right into a corner.

Here's how I did it.

I was plugging along, hammering the keyboard as fast as I could to keep up with my racing mind. Things were happening fast and furious. My protagonist and his wife were fighting and dialogue was flying out of their mouths faster than I could type. It was one of those times where the story literally took off and wrote itself.

Even I was a bit surprised at the events that unfolded. Once I finished the scene, I liked the chapter and thought. wow what a punchy ending. Sure there was a small niggling at the back of my brain but I truly was caught up in the euphoria of the story and the character's actions.

Then the next day I sat down to write and said okay ... Where the heck do I go from here? Oh, I still knew the ending for the novel, that didn't change, but the problem was I no longer knew how to get there. Once upon a time I knew the path, but then I doused that bridge with gasoline and let one of my characters loose with a book of matches.

It took me three or four days to realize the only answer. DELETE.

The scene is good if I do say so myself but it cut the legs right out of my story. The tension came to early. I know some writers who will say you have to listen to your characters. Let them dictate the pace. See where the story goes. Well, characters are like teenagers. Sure you listen to them, even let them state their opinion, but in the end you are the parental figure and sometimes you have put your foot down and say no. I will not let you do that because it is for your own good. Otherwise our stories would fail their next algebra test, or suddenly turn up pregnant with eighteen piercings in their eyebrow. A little authorial discipline is a good thing.

TWO LINES I'VE READ THIS WEEK (Visit the Women of Mystery Blog for more about two line Tuesday)

From Back Roads by Tawni O'Dell

I knew it was stupid for us to be sitting around blaming each other for abandoning each other and trying to figure out who did it first. It wasn't any different from asking, "Which came first the chicken or the egg?" knowing full well it didn't matter because God had to come before either one of them.

And from my novel in progress, Plundered Booty

These days, half the screen was missing, and the lot was littered with waist-high weeds and broken down speakers, but Red Dirt’s drive-in had been the first place I ever took Rachel on a date. It was also the first place we ever ... though that’s no great coincidence, since both events occurred on the exact same night.

So, ever write yourself in a corner? Ever read Back Roads? Have an opinion on what came first, the chicken or the egg? Been to a drive int theatre lately? Had your first taste of love or at least lust beneath the glow of an outdoor screen? Pay your taxes yet? Got anything to say? I'd love to hear, so drop me a comment.


Charles Gramlich said...

I have written myself into corners in short stories but so far not in a novel. thank goodness.

I can relate to your comment about the characters as teenagers and how sometimes you have to put the parental foot down.

Clair Dickson said...

I love your analogy about characters as teenagers. That is so very fitting.

Now, I've written myself into corners plenty of times. Usually once I get to the climax when I know I need to wrap things up... but I'm not a deleter. I'm a "cut and paste it into another document and pretend I might use it later-er." Usually I don't use it, but the pain of cutting it out is, I think, lessened.

Melissa Marsh said...

I had to delete a bunch of pages the other day. It almost literally made me sick to my stomach. All that work! And plus it wasn't badly written, either. But yep, delete away when it doesn't work.

Lana Gramlich said...

I like your 2 sentences more than Ms. O'Dell's.
I've painted myself into a corner before. That REALLY hurts, as it usually involves starting the entire painting over from scratch. When I've ended up in that situation I tend to merely throw the painting away & never go there again. Too painful.
When Charles visited me in Canada I took him to the drive-in...'nuff said. ;)
Yes, we've paid our taxes. Please don't remind me. You?

Linda McLaughlin said...

Yep, I've written myself into a corner on occasion. Hope you can get it all straightened out soon.

Drive-in theaters? Do those even exist anymore? There sure aren't any of them around here; they've all been paved over for strip malls. But that's life in the O.C.


Ello said...

Great post Travis because I have done the exact same thing! I have written myself into corners that then lead me to writer's block for days. The only thing to do is delete. and be ruthless. Good for you for recognizing! It took me weeks to make that same recognition.

Shauna Roberts said...

I wrote myself into a corner on one novel about 20,000 words into it. I set it aside with the thought that when I have more experience writing, I'll know what I need to cut and alter to make it work.

Reid said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Reid said...

In my attempts to get my writing career started I've read, by rough estimate, 34,000 books on writing. The only lesson or tip I can remember from any of them is to never end a scene if you don't know what happens next.

With me, my main problem is writing between the high points. I know where the big scenes will be, and I want to write those immediately. Having to be patient bugs me, sometimes.

Bernita said...

Taxes done.
Don't delete it, just remove it! Put it in another file, you may be able to use it elsewhere, mine it for great lines, things like that.
I'm close to being in a corner, but I think a few tweaks will get me out of it if I go back and alter one character's reactions a bit.

B.E. Sanderson said...

Somedays I feel like the queen of writing myself into a corner (or at least I used to). And I always find myself saying the immortal words "Write us out of this one, Joan Wilder." If I can't find a way out - like climbing out a window - I backtrack to the point where I went astray and start over. (I never totally delete anything.) It happens less often now that I have a general idea where I'm headed before I start writing, but the corner still out there waiting for me.

Hang in there, Travis. =o)

Bina said...

I'd say you know your characters better than they know themselves, so I'm sure you'll make the right decision.

Drive in's huh? I haven't been to one since I left Ohio, WAY back when! But I never did "THAT" there, but I have kissed and stuff, but honestly, I was WAY more into movies than boys at that time.

I've never written myself in to a corner. But I sure wish I could! I don't know how writters do it. I would love to have that talent.

Bubblewench said...

Now I want to read the part you deleted. That could be a story itself.

Nice post.

Josephine Damian said...

Ditto Bernita about putting those deletes in a file. Could be fodder for a short story.

So, ever write yourself in a corner?

Not anymore, bro. I outline.

Ever read Back Roads?
Read it. Finished it. Liked it. Who says strippers can't write?

Have an opinion on what came first, the chicken or the egg?

I say: Egg.

TE, at the lib. the other day, two gals were talking about their gall bladder surgeries. One gal said: Eat lettuce? No way! I'm not a rabbit. Other gal said: I always put meat in my salad.

Me: smiling and thiking of Travis.

Glad to hear you're well enough to sit at the keyboard and have at the muse.

theneatos said...

I have written myself into a corner, so to speak,at work. I figured out how I wanted something to run -- and told me boss - who tried to implement it without working through the kinks. We hit a kink, and - KABLAM - "pretty, this is so not working, not so sure your idea is going to work ... " (sigh!) I want to hit DELETE during that conversation!

Taxes? Done and money in the bank!

I feel in love with the big sexy Texas sky last weekend up in Granbury. Oh my, it's so beautiful here.

ChristineEldin said...

I don't know Travis. I wouldn't be so hasty with the delete button. I think (from your enthusiasm) this scene has a lot of energy. Can you move it someplace else? Or shorten it / redirect it? The delete button is not always a good thing, especially when those creative jumps are there.