I wanted to spend about six weeks away from this WIP to give me some distance and hopefully more objectivity. My report came back very quickly, which was great. It meant I took my break but with specific areas to work on. I've read up on this subjects, studied suggested authors and am returning to my WIP with a knowledge of where I went wrong and the hope I will be able to learn from these mistakes.
As part of this process (and in writing this blog) I'm beginning to realise I'm quite a visual person. I seem to understand things much better if I can visualise the problem. One of my mistakes was what I have dubbed creating 'The Earthquake Plot.'
In my report the reader said - 'the story relied on external events.'
It may sound silly, but I hadn't even realised. When I was blindly writing just to get to the point it was done, I knew I needed pace so events occurred to inject pace - right? Wrong. Yes, it injected pace but it didn't endear the reader to the story and it was covering up more systemic issues.
Those systemic (though not terminal) issues related to characterisation. When I started out I thought I would be able to make it up as I went along. I didn't push myself to create the characters at the beginning, thinking they would carve themselves out as the story unfolded. But they didn't. Not completely and despite finishing the story, the characters did not come out as the well-rounded people they should have become.
At first I wasn't sure why having external events was a problem in the sense that, as they happen in real life, why not in fiction? This is how I've come to understand why it doesn't work:
Earthquake. Earthquake. Earthquake. Earthquake. Earthquake. Earthquake. Earthquake. Earthquake. Earthquake. Earthquake.
You go to see the movie called Earthquake. You expect there will be said earthquake in movie. The whole movie is just a series of earthquakes. Hmm... no story in that. More of a documentary without the Attenborough voiceover.
Earthquake. Characters react to earthquake. Make decisions about their present situation based on experience from their past.
A much better film. Okay, there is still an external event at the beginning but the story lies in how the characters react.
Using this rather silly example has made me realise the difference between internal and external story. For characterisation to be successful, the story needs to come from within character. Otherwise it's just a series of events.
I'm glad to say my WIP isn't all earthquakes but I now know what the reader meant by external events and how that affects story. Characterisation and re-plotting in progress and re-write to commence this week.