Dem Bones . . . Gotta Have Dem Bones

No, not Halloween. It's done for the year.

I'm talking about the bones of a story. My good friend and writer, Meg Reid, and I were chatting the other day when I confessed that I had a hard time sitting down to write the next scene in my book, DRAGON DAYS OF SUMMER. It's a tough scene, an emotional one, where two of my characters witness a scene featuring a third character.

Have you ever been out and about and witness an explosion of anger? Even with people you don't even know? Or been in the room where two people are arguing, getting louder and louder.

I have. Not often, thank God. I'm one of those witnesses who curl into themselves, frozen in fear. Should I even say it? I'm the rabbit who freezes, and prays that the fox doesn't see me.

Just like me, they don't know how to react or what to do. They are frozen as they watch this scene unfold, just like many of us would be if we had to witness something similar.

It isn't a fun scene. We're talking drugs, poverty, abuse, threats and violence. The two characters who witness this scene finally realize how sheltered their life is and just how horrific this third character's life has been. An "Ah-Ha" moment, if you will.

I have to write this scene. It's pivotal to all the characters. And I don't want to because it's overwhelming, brimming with emotion. And I have a very difficult time writing emotion, especially something as tense as this situation is.

So Meg suggested that I simply write the skeleton of the story. Simple facts that would allow me to place the characters in their positions, like a stop-action type of movie. Write the scene as I watch it unfold in front of these characters, but don't worry about the emotional impact--yet.

That part of the story can be told during the second draft, AFTER the story is written.

In fact, this story is riddled with bold red comments that I've made when I've thought about how to deepen one section, or delete another scene and add something more pertinent to the character. Or characterization for one of the secondary characters that seemed to know stuff she shouldn't know, etc.

That emotion/characterization is the meat of the story to lay over the bones of the skeleton.

And guess what the third layer is?

The flesh, the skin that covers everything and ties it all together, the finishing touches, the grammar tweaks, the word choices, along with the pacing, etc.

This story has taken me a long time to write, but by following Meg's suggestions, I'm not as scared as I once was to tackle uncomfortable scenes.

Time to get another cup of joe and open up my document.

Later, Peeps!


Meg said...

Thanks, Margaret! I was just passing along what I learned.
You are an excellent writer and friend.

Margaret Golla said...

Thanks again, Meggie! It still doesn't mean that it isn't hard to write. :-)

Marilyn said...

But "hard to write" translates into "wonderful to read." Any prospective pub date on this one yet? I've waited too long!