Who’s saying what?

I’ve mentioned before that I quite like the redrafting/editting process. Taking a rather scrappy first draft and forging it into something worth reading is really satisfying, probably more so than finishing that very first draft. What I didn’t quite expect, though, is that in rebuilding some of the rubbish, simple changes cascade through and make quite quite profound changes.

Recently, I came to the end of a book and have gone through redrafting it. There were a fair few knock-on effects from where the plot eventually led, and essences of characters had subtly evolved, elements of which needed to be included earlier on. However, there was one sub-plot that had been bothering me as it didn’t make much sense. So, I changed it.

Initially, all the change did was to alter who suggested a particular form of action, a set of orders and recommendations to be passed on to others.  In doing so, however, the original character was forced to discuss the action (rather than suggest it) and pull out from the new source why they were suggesting it. What’s more, the plan that was suggested as changed. And, because it was to do with saving people, all of a sudden the new source gained a real depth that they sorely needed whilst justifying why they were suggesting what they did. Their compassion, care and concern came through.

That simple change cascaded through a number of scenes and chapters and, frankly, required quite a lot of associated rework and cutting to be carried out throughout the rest of the novel. But it also enabled a lot of rubbish to be cut out: I no longer had to deal with the off-camera activity. What’s more, the change cascaded into other discussions by other characters about the new source of the suggestion, bringing them further into the story and adding depth and humanity to a character who desperately needed it.

Needless to say, there is a lesson learnt: in future editing passes, I’m going to make sure that the right characters are saying the right things. It’s not that the original source would not have said what they did (because t hey would) but because its shown me just how another character saying the same thing can shed that much light on their own motives.

And in doing so, make them that much more real.

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