day 26: stuck in the middle with exposition
last night, kelly found herself stranded in a place that wasn’t very hospitable, with a companion who wasn’t very communicative, and a goal that was getting less and less clear. this morning, things are starting to clarify, but i’m afraid of the cost to the reader.
so last night i wrote 3 more pages, plus another 5 this morning. all very good, except for the concern above.
last night’s writing consisted of a fair amount of bizarre craziness that kelly was forced through, and while it is necessary to the story and makes sense, i grew steadily more afraid that i was crossing the line from bizarre and scary to cartoony and ridiculous. it’s a hard thing for me, sometimes, to walk that line. it’s easy to go too far in the bizarre direction, but very quickly all sense of balance, empathy, and relatability can disappear*, leaving me with several pages of nonsense that have to be thrown away.
i wasn’t certain this was the case, yet, but i was having my doubts as i neared the end of the scene. however, just as i got there, i realized that a character who had been essentially sitting out the events i’d been describing – and not on purpose but mainly because i couldn’t see him having anything to offer in the context of what was going on – suddenly explained himself in a way that i had not in any way prepared for.
yet it worked, and very well, i might add. his silence, the bizarre events, the resulting end; they all came together when i realized that he wasn’t just sitting things out.**
so, the night ended very well, leaving kelly in a lull to catch her breath and get some ‘splaining.
which is where today’s problem lies: exposition. there’s a fairly sizable chunk of information that she’s about to get, which i’m at a loss as to how to make more dynamic than a straightforward conversation, albeit largely one-sided. these things can work***, but more often than not they read like INSERT EXPLANATION OF CURSE AND PROPHECY HERE. it’s clunky and heavy and slows things down, but it’s ‘necessary’ and then we can move on to the interesting stuff again.
and, obviously, i don’t want that, but i don’t know how to mix it up. on the other hand, there’s been so much upheaval and chaos for kelly lately, i wonder if it would actually be a good thing to slow things down like this. it’s hard to be sure about the pacing at this point, not having the whole piece in place. it’s also hard to know if i’m being honest with myself about the ‘necessity’ of this information. revision usually has a signficant hand in changing my perceptions of what is and isn’t necessary.
for now, then, to keep myself moving and actually get to the point where i can see if it works or not in the pacing, i’ll leave it as is. HEAVY-HANDED EXPOSITION, HERE I COME!
* this is one of the main problems i have with some stories i’ve read, such as when the david and goliath idea is taken to a simply un-believable extreme, or when the enjoyment of the description over-reaches the scope or control of the story.
** once again, i wish i could say i planned all this stuff, but i can’t. what i can say, though is that i’m listening.
*** i quickly imagine two warriors seated by a campfire after a hard day’s fight against an unexpected enemy. exhausted, but knowing themselves safe at least for the night, the grizzled elder shares a bit of backstory about this new foe, and the ‘unexpected’ connection to the younger warrior’s family. or something like that, anyway.