Hey hey, it’s Thursday again, and you know what that means – blog time. Still hanging in there, still writing, still enjoying the hell out of it, though I find myself in a bit of a “situation” with In the Pines. This is the same kind of situation that has plagued me in the past, but as I said in the past, at least this time it’s on the outline level and the fix is measured in days rather than months.
Here’s the situation: as planned, I picked up the outline again on Friday, with grand plans to hone it to Version 3 and from there take a hop, skip, and a jump to Version 4 and then the first draft of the actual novel. Things were chugging along rather well, with an adjustment here or there, until I hit the portion of the story where Morgan comes home to find that her once-vibrant-cum-sickly mother has “recovered” and turned into a sickly-sweet manic version of herself. I went forward with a taken on this chapter that featured Morgan and Rosa (who are now attached at the hip because of Morgan’s off-the-rails boyfriend) dealing with this crazy but ultimately well-meaning mother.
And it just felt flat, which is obviously not something you want from a scene that’s supposed to be filled with manic energy. I puzzled over the problem, how to fix the scene and such, and realized that it might not be “fixable” as such; the dynamic entirely changed with Rosa in tow and I was not about to remove Rosa from the scene. So the scene itself had to change. But how? Again, I searched my thoughts. The scene needed more tension to keep it from falling flat. What if her mother wasn’t so well-meaning? What if the nature of her “change” was far more sinister and threatening? From there it wasn’t a long trip to one of the book’s underlying themes: sexual agency and confusion.
A horror mentor long ago told me that one of the most powerful emotional taps that we can touch when creating horror is the sexual side; it’s part of what’s made Stephen King so effective, even if he comes across as a crazy creeper in some instances. Horror is about eliciting a response, about touching on the reader’s emotions, and to be honest I feel like sexuality has been something that I’ve kept at arms’ length in my genre works (not the literary novel I’m writing though, that’s for sure). I don’t want to give away the turn here as it’s pivotal to the second act of the book, but I think I found an effective way to combine sexuality and terror. At first I recoiled from the idea, but shit, isn’t that what I want the reader to feel, to empathize with what Morgan is going through? So I went for it, and it’s taking the second act of the book in a completely different direction.
I think I can circle back to the original ending, sort of, but there’s going to be a new subtext and a dude-in-distress subplot that I hadn’t considered before. As you can imagine, this is going to mean that the fourth version of the outline will need considerable massaging, so that mythical first draft is still a little way down the path. The good news is that if I keep this pace up, we could be looking at the end of Version 3 by the end of this week. Then it’s back to plotting Elkmont.
Just goes to show the ripples that a change in direction can send across the surface of even a well-planned novel, to torture the hell out of the metaphor.
In other news, this weekend I’ll once again be playing for Extra Life, trying to raise money for St. Louis Children’s Hospital, though I have to admit to being an utter failure to this point. Not that I can blame anyone; if your autumn has been anything like ours, money is precious. But if you happen to be able to give, please consider doing so at this link. I will be livestreaming off-and-on during the day, depending on which system I’m using.
Finally made our way back east of the Mississippi river Saturday, to a town called Alton, Illinois. Picturesque little place, though it appears to be struggling like many other once-industrial cities in similar settings. I’ve included some pictures below, as I’m obviously never getting to those Friday photo posts again. If you happen to be in that neck of the woods, I highly recommend checking out Bluff City Grill. Fantastic comfort food, nice bar, and great atmosphere. We’ll definitely be going back.