I’ve struggled with my current work in progress, adding layers to the characters, surprise twists, and, hopefully, foreshadowing just enough to hold the reader’s interest without giving away the farm.
The other day I came across a photograph of mine which represented where I am and where I want to be. You all know “Before” and “After” pictures. Here is one which includes both, side by side.
I view these two potted geraniums as stages in a story. The geranium on the left has bare branches. I call them bones––a rough draft––the spine of the story with incomplete elements.
Shall we hop up the weaker plant with a strong dose of fertilizer? Ah, too much too quick and you may kill it. The same applies to my story. I do not rush revisions. Instead, I put the manuscript aside and leave it for awhile, to later read with fresh eyes. I weight my critique partner’s suggestions and comments.
Don’t fool with word choices until you’ve nailed down any structural weaknesses. Of course, you will correct obvious typos or grammar errors when you spot them. Is every scene necessary? Check for redundant thoughts. Typically, revision means ‘to tighten.’ But make sure you retain your voice. Eliminate clichés. Instead strive for something more unique.
There are a hundred different items to consider from passive voice, using concise language to varying sentence structure. You work diligently, your passion shines, and then, lo and behold, the once bony plant sprouts lush growth, an overabundance of life trails out of the confined space.
Voila, all the time and effort has paid off beautifully. Everyone wants to touch those velvet leaves––savor the texture––embrace your well-crafted story.
Certain areas challenge each of us in growing a story. Mine are nailing down my theme. I start with one and then somehow my characters lurch and strain in another direction, wanting to change my theme. Whether this is a weakness or strength depends on the outcome. If the new theme is more compelling than the original perhaps I need to listen to my characters. After all, it is their story.
What part of growing a story challenges you?