You know what I haven’t done in a while? Looked at anyone’s comments from workshop. I go to workshop and listen and take notes and then the comments sit in a drawer. Considering I’ve just spend an hour redesigning the website itself, I think I’m a little hesitant to delve into the fray. Why? Couldn’t say for sure. Maybe I’m afraid of what I’ll find there.
I’m afraid of this story anyway. It’s about as complicated conceptually as anything I’ve ever tried. In the writing of it I relied a lot upon the factual information I had. Working from what the internet could tell me about an abandoned cemetery in West Texas, I didn’t have to decide what characters were available to me, or what their names would be, or ages. In workshop I got a lot of suggestions about clarifying the story by adjusting the names, the location, placing emphasis here and de-emphasizing there. And my head is afraid. This story was a mind-fuck from the beginning and only by holding onto these real-world markers was I able to get through it. Now if I want to make it better I have to abandon these ports of safe harbor and venture out into uncharted waters.
As much as I appreciate good nonfiction stories, I’ll never respect them as much as good fiction stories. With the former all you have to do is tell the truth. With the latter, you have to find it.
No, that’s too simplistic. With good nonfiction, you have to find the truth, too, but it’s a process of elimination. It’s deductive reasoning. Fiction insists on inductive reasoning being involved, too. What-ifs stack upon if-thens, probability, possibility, statistics. What if there’s a truer truth than the one that’s most likely. All very headache-inducing.
More often than not, it comes down to character, and so that’s where I should start. Figure out the character motivations, figure out the story. Which means doing work. More work. Work that invalidates a whole stack of previous work. Logic suggests if I’d only done the right work the first time, I wouldn’t have to do it again, but that’s a fallacy too easy to believe, no matter how right it feels. Wasted time! says my brain. You don’t want to waste any more, do you? So why even try? Transforming it from one mediocre version to another wouldn’t be worth it. Here’s one thing and here’s another: that is not the goal. Here’s one thing, and here’s a better thing! Can you get there? There are no guarantees.
Still. You must try.