Monday, September 1, 2014

Abstract Thoughts: The Old Toys Are New Again

Writings of the Muse
There's a thing you can do with toys when children are young. If you box up a bunch of the ones that fall out of favor and hide them for a few months, you can bring them out later, when the current crop get boring, and suddenly all those old toys are new again. Renee used to do this quite regularly and was always amazed by how a toy her three-year-old hadn't been interested in playing with for months when it was just mixed into the toy box with all the other toys suddenly became the coolest toy on the planet after spending a few months in the closet.

As you all know, we recently took a break from Guardian while Renee recovered from surgery and wrote the zero draft of "Fishwife". (That went very well, by the way. We managed to complete an actual short story that stayed short. I don't think Renee has ever done that before.) In essence, we packed Guardian and all its associated toys up in a box and stuck them in the closet for a few months while we played with other things.

When we were considering replotting Guardian there was some debate about how to treat the existing text. Did we keep the work we'd already done and treat this as a major revision? Or did we set it all aside and start fresh? Many of the scenes we'd already written were quite good, but there was so much that just wasn't going to fit the story any longer. No one wanted to lose all our hard work, but would attempting to reshape it end up taking too much time?

What it ultimately came down to was really looking at what we wanted the story to be. At the end of the day, Renee was writing all those lovely words from the wrong place. The timeline was wonky, the focus was off, and in many cases the wrong characters were doing the talking. Even the background information--the character sheets and setting sketches and such--needed to be updated. To keep the existing draft and adapt it to the new plan would have taken a ton of time and energy.

So we gathered up all those broken scenes and filed them away for reference. Some bits and pieces may work in the new storyline with a little tweaking here and there, but most of them will have to go. We started with a brand new template and built a new set of character sheets and setting sketches. We've got a bunch of notes and we're putting together a new synopsis and scene list to work from.

I was worried that this approach wouldn't work, that it would seem like duplicated effort and the déjà vu would quickly turn to boredom. As a Muse, it's my job to find new ideas and make sure Renee has a steady stream of inspiration to keep her going. I stir up the plot soup and see what interesting flavor combinations I can put together. I don't typically serve the same meal twice, as it were.

But instead enough has changed that the effort doesn't feel duplicated at all. We've got a familiarity with these characters and places that makes working with them easy, while the situation they're in seems fresh and interesting. It's like starting all over again, unpacking that box of toys from the closet and finding they've become new and exciting once more.

No comments:

Post a Comment