Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Personal aha moment

lol...that's the trouble with thinking so hard, you get lost in what you're trying to say and don't notice you didn't say it all.

So there I was at the lecture, trouble-shooting plot points--thinking about my opening, Kaige's opening and Jennifer's comment that she couldn't move past stuff because she was so focused on doing the right thing, when it struck me--I'd moved away from a structure I knew worked for me because in listening to what "should" work, I stopped trusting myself.

I like prologues (as long as they're not too long, or abstract, or omni pov). My stories are thrillers. Not really rs, but one of those unacknowledged sub-sets, like the difference between a James Patterson and a Clive Cussler. BIG difference. In Hot Contract, (and I'm not trying to be one of those people who always bring up their book)I kept getting comments that I moved too fast, and launched into the action in...er, the middle of the action. So I kept pulling back--until I found the inciting incident for the story, where Connor gets taken. I think I already had the inciting incident for the emotional story, which is in the car when Keegan gives in to his chivalry and hands Jen his jacket because she can't stop shivering, and Jen actually "looks" at him for the first time. I had the two confused.

BUT...the thing about a prologue is that it has to happen right before the story, and hold an immediate impact on it. And no matter how hard I try to remember, it seems to slip away.

...say if I'd wanted to open my prologue with Keegan taking Kai's job, I could open with the Samoy kidnapping Kai's kid and end with Kai saying, "DalCon", or "I want the best", (or cheapest....or whatever I wanted to show about DalCon) which is actually the inciting incident for the inciting incident...

You can't have Connor fall out of the Huey without Kai's kid being on that island. But...it's not up close and immediate.

So starting with Connor falling off the strut, the Huey lifting and--fade to black, it makes sense to open with a quiet shot of Jen sitting at her desk. Like, er--a movie-thriller.

A visual equivalent would be the first Indiana Jones, or Star Wars. Action > breather > action.

The fade to black would be that scene in Highlander where Christopher Lambert is sitting in his apartment, we fade into his eyes and abruptly--it explodes into his past. Only in reverse.

It's still the ordinary world (Keegan's ordinary world) but...it runs against all the novel opening advice because it goes back to movie techniques, but not usual technique, because it's specific to a specialized sub-genre. That of a thriller.

hmm...re-reading this and I'm wondering if maybe I'm getting a little "too" Monk-ish.


deanna said...

I don't always follow all your thoughts about structure, but reading them (usually at least twice) I pick up different points. Structure's what I need - limitation, somewhere, for heaven's sake, because literary fiction and non are so out of the box I get lost. Knowing how to follow your instincts in a way readers can latch onto, as with a prologue, is big stuff. Having a "Monk" pick this apart helps tons (and your book is a good example!).

jodi said...

lol--my next book will be better. Sometimes, there's a sharp learning curve. :)

Kaige said...

Cool. I like Monk. As long as you don't get like Dr. Bishop in Fringe, then we're ok. :)

BTW: I can't remember if you were a fan of Bickham's Scene & Structure, but I picked up "HOOKED" by Les Edgerton. Lots of talk so far about initial surface problems leading to the story-worthy problem that's making a LOT of what Nancy Kress said in Beginnings, Middles, and Ends make a lot more sense. I'll let you know what I think when I finish it, but you might like it.

Definitely covering the ground we've been talking about -- especially that notion of "WHERE do you start then?"

Unhinged said...

I'm ah-hahing and OCDing with you too. I tried typing a response to the OCD post yesterday, but didn't like what I had to say. Blurg.

Just wanted to let you know.


Andi was here.

Alice Audrey said...

I think prologues are more flexible than you are giving them credit for. I've seen ones that worked just fine that took place in a previous generation, ones that came from the POV of a character that never appeared anywhere else in the book, or that had a tone quite different than the rest of the book. I've seen the same things fail in prologues too. To quote a great editor, "It's all in how it's executed."

jodi said...

my "favorite" editor, and the bestest in the world. I wish I'd taken a picture and got an autograph. *sigh*

Alice Audrey said...

You really should have. She's a seriously cool individual.