Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Choose Your Own Adventure

I've been deep into Areia this week (and last). I realized after I had completed the book that I'd used the first 300 or so pages to really get to know the character and the way the world worked. I mean, by the end of the book, I'd completely reworked the laws governing magic during these pages, changed Areia's opinion on the Temple of Shadow and Light where she's currently training, and added new, very key secondary characters, which altered Areia again. While fascinating for me, this is not so great for the audience. The pacing was flat, the character growth elongated through too many repetitive encounters, and the enemies were too late coming on the scene. Plus, Areia was reading too perfect. She's not perfect. She's a moody fourteen-year-old girl chosen by the goddesses to work with magical power--a power that starts to fail her, too. So she's got problems. Lots of them.

Thus, my task has been to make those problems and Areia believable, make the magic rules completely soundproof, build up character relationships better, and all the while not bore the reader with too much extraneous information. Which means I've been hunting and pecking through 300 pages (well, 200, since pages 1-100 were already sorted through for chapters 1-5) for the juicy bits and adding in filler as needed. I did my first run through for this chapter by hand, editing the printed pages and writing the new scenes in a notebook. Now I'm typing it all up and I find myself thinking back to the Choose Your Own Adventure novels that I used to read when I was in the sixth grade. You know the ones where there would be a page of a scene, and at the bottom it would say something like:
  • To throw Bobby off a cliff, turn to page 44.
  • To rescue Bobby with a giant hammock flown in by a helicopter, turn to page 92.

Only I can't remember now if it revealed what the next scene would be or if it was more mysterious:

  • To have Bobby go down the left trail, turn to page 84.
  • To have Bobby experience something he's never done before, turn to page 72.

(I'd definitely go to page 72 in this choice.)

So that's how my rewrites have been going: Skip from page 289 back to 144, add in the text marked "triangle with a circle plus an X through it*" in my handwritten notebook, then skip to page 201. (*I make myself reference notes on the printed pages that refer to my handwritten notebook by using hieroglyphic-type marks like the triangle with a circle plus an X through it. That way I don't get confused by numbered notations. Also, I get to doodle for a moment.)

But I'd forgotten another thing about the Choose Your Own Adventure novels: after the first two or three, they became boring. I always wanted more story. I hated that so many plot lines led back to the same ending. I wanted a longer book. I wanted more character development. Which is why I stopped reading those books. So, while patching together this chapter scene by non-linear scene has been interesting, I'm looking forward to the second round of edits where page 20 will be followed by page 21. And as far as wanting more, well, I've got another 1,000 pages to go.

1 comment:

Kate said...

I love your analogy. :) (And I loved those Choose-Your-Own Adventure books, too!) I bet it'll seem almost easy when you get to just read your book "in order" on the next round.