The Page a Day Writers Group

Bubble, bubble, toil and trouble

Posted on: December 4, 2009

At my editor’s suggestion, I’ve bumped a scene from way back around chapter 20 to the very front of the book. She’s right, it is a stellar opening line and much more effectively sets the scope for the entire adventure in Tattoo. But that leaves me with scads of cutting, pasting, rewriting and reimagining to do. I’ve so far managed to condense about 5 chapters into two, heeding my keywords “short, sharp and brutal.”  I want to incite to leave readers feel strung out and remembering their own very awkward and heartwrenching breakups but plunging immediately into an emotional maelstrom doesn’t work in the opening position. More shuffling and sorting required.

On top of it all, I’m juggling two main storylines for one character. Because Soryk/ah is a Trader and spends time as both a woman and a man (neither of whom has much awareness of the other), each has her/his own life with its own complications and confusions. Getting confused? So am I.

I’ve gone round and round, looking at it from all angles to pinpoint the inciting incident for each of Soryk/ah’s genders. What specific event sets the story in motion? Do they have the same motivations, the same goals and desires? Do those feelings and ambitions counter or support the other gender? All of which leaves me feeling like I’m juggling a big ball of snakes.

Years of writing has taught me one vital lesson, and that’s the importance of brooding. Stewing, fermenting, bubbling, gestating. You get the idea. I see my creative mind as a deluxe stovetop with six flaring gas burners. Some of the pots and pans are filled with rich, creamy succulence, boiling and steaming, carmelizing and crackling away. Those are the stories I’m most excited about. There’s always a giant soup pot or two on the back burner, simmering over a low flame, it’s flavors and elements breaking down, interacting, creating new flavors and textures. When I feel stuck, I turn down the flame, pop a lid over the whole kit and caboodle and let it work itself out. This means working on other, less troublesome parts of the story, all the while, the soup pot bubbles.

Ultimately, I trust that my brain’s conduits to these characters’ lives will untangle themselves and by some mysterious alchemy, the mishmash of ingredients I’ve thrown together will be transformed into something so ultimately delicious, it leaves us all begging for another helping.

I think you may have to let this entry simmer in your own pot until my ramblings begin to make sense. I’ve been writing in between bubble-blowing breaks for the boy in the bath, who has informed me that he’s going to stay in the tub until midnight.

Anyway, here are two extrememly helpful links to discussion about the inciting incident and writing gotcha-grabber opening scenes/chapters.

http://www.floggingthequill.com/flogging_the_quill/2006/02/your_inciting_i.html

http://www.writersdigest.com/article/hooked-excerpt

Kirsten Imani Kasai

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2 Responses to "Bubble, bubble, toil and trouble"

Kirsten,
It definitely sounds like you’re enjoying (if that’s the correct word), your rewriting. I think you bring up a good point about setting some scenes/chapters off to the side while they simmer and going on to work on other parts of the story. That works for me and it’s like I come back to those chapters with new eyes.

Happy rewrites, I’m sure the final product is going to be fabulous!

Thanks for the great links, Kirsten. Just enjoyed floggingthequill.com. I’m rooting you on in your challenge of two main storylines for Soryk/ah. Mysterious alchemy at work with certain delicious results!

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The Page a Day Writers Group is a diverse collection of wonderful writers based in San Diego, CA. We've been meeting monthly since 2004. Our primary function is in-depth writing critique, marketing and brainstorming, but there's usually some wine, chocolate and ribaldry involved too. We write fantasy, humor, literary fiction, nonfiction, romance, thrillers and YA. Join us on our journeys to publication and the wonderland beyond!

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