09 Nov

WCAD Walkthrough: Chapter 11

Chapter 11 is in solitary confinement because it’s a malefactor and I don’t want it corrupting the others.

Subjects touched upon herein: bitchy chapters, spectral readers, working titles, bad kisses, a little foreshadowing, and a little stage-2 gardening.

SpoilerWarning

I do not, in fact, love all my babies equally

Chapter 11 was such a trial to revise, I really don’t even want to talk about it.

Talking about Chapter 11 is like being forced to give a toast at a wedding for some bitch who was mean to you in high school when you’d rather rebel yell, leap across the table, and stab her with a shrimp fork but you can’t because she’s marrying your best friend so you have to be on your best behavior to prevent anyone from blaming you directly for the impending tragedy.

“And who can forget that clever prank with the bucket of pig’s blood! I know none of my therapists ever will! I wish Eric all the happiness in the world and Brittany a speedy journey back to hell where she belongs! Cheers!”

But I am an adult (ostensibly). I do things I don’t want to do every day of my life. I can do this, too.

Even if I don’t wanna and will whine for the duration.

Getting hammered with batteries

Remember when I said half-assing the walkthrough didn’t do the story any favors?

My half-ass notes for this section shrugged off some first thoughts as best thoughts.

Once again, she would withstand whatever disaster happened between them from the safety of her walls while he stood out in the open getting hammered.

“Hammered” was my rough-draft word choice to indicate being laid to waste by the end of the relationship. In revisions, I wasn’t loving it because there’s a connotation with “drunk,” and I didn’t want to create even a subliminal impression that when things go wrong, Ben’s response is to get shitfaced, which I’m not a fan of in general but especially when Tally’s mom was an abusive alcoholic.

I changed it to “battered,” but I wasn’t loving that, either, because: (a) in a story with domestic violence in it, I prefer to reserve all forms of battery for use by those with firsthand experience and (b) Tally used “battered” about half a page earlier (she’s allowed because she knows perfectly well what “battered” feels like), which is too close spatially to repeat any word that’s supposed to have some power. Echoing can reinforce an idea, but using an important word over and over again in quick succession diminishes its impact, and “battered” has an impact that shouldn’t be lost.

“Pounded” has a sexual connation that’s as undesirable in this context as the drunken one. “Clobbered” sounds like something a three-year-old would do to you during playtime or how you feel after a hard workout, not something emotionally devastating. Nothing else in the thesaurus was really jumping out at me as more acceptable than “hammered.” I figured I’d wasted enough hours trying to find an alternative to one word, it was good enough to get the point across, and the moral of the story I’d tell in this post would be Trust your instincts.

When I resolved to stop half-assing the walkthrough and was thinking of how to complete the sentence “Hammered” was my rough-draft word choice to indicate…, “laid to waste” came immediately to mind. That sounds suitably dire. That even sounds like an appropriate description for a guy locked out of a metaphorical fortress and beset by woe.

So the story changed in the following way to reflect what I learned while writing this post:

Once again, she would withstand whatever disaster happened between them from the safety of her walls while he was laid to waste out in the open.

I have to say, right at this moment (although subject to change at any time), I don’t hate blogging as much as I always have in the past. (Funny how your perception of something changes when it starts to benefit a cause you care about, ain’t it?)

High five to your spectre, Blog Reader.

Easter eggs

From now on, for the sake of simplicity, my working titles will always be filed under The Adventures of X and Y, but by the time I got around to putting something on the computer for WCAD (I handwrite all planning, outlines, snippets, rough drafts, and rough-and-a-half drafts because I like physically manipulating ideas during creation phases), it had a different working title.

TheBenTrainToHappyville

Pretty sure I’m scheduled to explain the origins of that handle at a later date, but The Adventures of Tally and Ben as a prototype for future file naming came up at this date (and is less screamy than most of the other things I might say about Chapter 11), so there you have it.

Trying too hard

For those of you who have never driven in the country at night where there are no lights other than your own headlights, there is a visible wedge of what falls within the headlights (which is tinier than you probably imagine) and there is thick, inky blackness. (In the words of a friend who is otherwise beyond reproach as a driver, “That’s how I hit a cow.” The cow’s been standing in the same place for hours [Waiting. Moo-nacingly.], but to you, it magically emerges from an interdimensional hell portal cleverly disguised as the ether 15 feet in front of you when you’re moving 40 mph, totals your car, and ambles off unscathed to report a successful mission to its ungulate overlord and accept its next assignment in the plot for world domination.)

If you’re in the car and shift your gaze from that wedge of headlights to look out the side window, you see nothing but black because your eyes can’t instantly adjust from headlight-light to dark-o-vision, and shifting back and forth only keeps your eyeballs in a state of confusion. (Keep your eyeballs forward at all times if you’re the one driving in the darkest dark, if you please.) You can see farther and more clearly standing in a field with nothing but the light of the cosmos than you can see anywhere near an artificial light source.

God help you if you encounter another car out there. You’ll be lucky to survive the mutual blinding.

(Or maybe that’s just my mild retinopathy talking and my cow-plowing friend should schedule an ophthalmologic visit. Rural folk: Your mileage may vary. City folk: I’m totally right and you should believe me until you experience otherwise.)

TL;DR. What I’m getting at is that there’s really no scenery in this scene to describe, no stage to set, so I left it out initially, and that is not a thing my editor dinged me for because she understood it’s the kind of dark that doesn’t lend itself to a lot of visualization (or perhaps she also should not be driving at night — the more people agree with me, the more paranoid I get that I’m wrong).

But in revision, I thought, “The absence of visibility is the setting, and I can drop that in with a couple of words.”

The night had substance, zipped open by the headlights, impenetrable beyond the edge where it peeled away from the strip of exposed asphalt.

(Another sentence made better — or at least more dramatic — while I was writing to you about it.)

And then I thought, “Darkness and impenetrable sounds like an obvious Tally metaphor. The writerly thing to do would be to extend it.”

Here, darkness pushed back against intrusion.

BECAUSE WHEN HE GETS A FLEETING GLIMPSE INTO HER IMPENETRABLE DARKNESS, SHE PUSHES HIM AWAY. DO YOU SEE? DO YOU SEE?!

I might like it if somebody else wrote it, but it feels inauthentic to me. I’m mocking myself for it. “I should try to be writerly” is the French kiss of death from a plague maiden.

Yes, it occurs to me that if I didn’t whine about how I would never write something like that, you would never know I would never write something like that because you have, in fact, read something like that which was, in fact, written by me. But as I’m writing these posts, I don’t know that anyone else will ever see them (or if I’ll even release this book), so they’re more for my benefit (and the story’s) than yours, and I’m still grappling with some demons. Maybe I need to rethink what “I would never write.” Things have changed. This has been a learning/developmental process for me, and I really don’t have a precedent for what I’m writing now. Maybe the problem isn’t the words but my closed-minded resistance to change distorting my perception of them.

The book isn’t published as I’m writing this. I could sit here with you looking over my shoulder until I figure out something I’m happier with, as I’ve done twice already today, but I already spent four days on this one freaking chapter when I was knocking out five to eight other chapters every other day of this revision, and I believe at this point the only way to resolve the conflict between us is to rebel yell, leap across the table, and stab it with a shrimp fork.

I can’t keep editing forever. I can’t save every line. I can’t make a “perfect” story. I have to find the degree of imperfection I can live with and move on.

If this is the worst I feel about anything in this book, I can live with it.

Of course, if a solution wanted to come to me at any time between now and publication, that would be cool, too.

Any time.

Omens, portents, and prophecies, oh my

There are almost certainly more foreshadows and payoffs, but I just grabbed the ones that jumped at me on a quick pass because I really don’t want to dig deep into this thing another time.

  • Starting something new beat the hell out of wallowing in misery. There was no benefit to prolonged suffering. — expect his death grip on that lifelong philosophy to slacken by the next time he faces misery and suffering
  • “Why did you marry her?” — expect him to have to answer that question eventually

Tending the sprouts

  • Back in Chapter 1, Shane alluded to Ben’s romantic escapades — now we know Ben prefers being with someone to being alone, and his habit is to chain relationships so there’s as little gap as possible between.
  • Back in Chapter 1’s walkthrough, feelings of worthlessness were foretold — now we learn Ben thought he had to “practice” being a boyfriend “so he’d have something worthwhile to offer” because just-as-you-are couldn’t possibly be good enough for the girl he has on a pedestal.
  • In Chapter 9, Tally suggested Ben turn on the radio if he wasn’t happy with her conversational skills — now he’s sufficiently unhappy to turn on the radio.

I’m so loath to revisit this chapter, I’m tempted to turn the comments off, but I won’t. I did what I did, and now I have to face the consequences like a grownup. It’s open season in the space below. Meanwhile, I’ll be escaping into Chapter 12.