Thursday, July 28, 2016

Forgotten Threads

The beginning of any book is full of possibilities, for the story can spin off in any direction.  You get introduced to characters and learn their history, so the novel takes on a life of its own.  The danger in all of this, of course, is that you either find yourself pinned in a corner, or you put things in that you later find have no relevance to the story. 

However, you don’t always want to remove those things since they enhance what you’ve written.  Sure, excess threads and irrelevant parts are easily excised, but sometimes those parts are woven into other threads that are part of the whole book, so taking them out simply isn’t possible.  That’s when things get tricky, because readers often wonder where they go.

I’ve done this in my own work.  In Salvation Day, the main character has a pretty big fight with his boss(who is a complete prick).  The sequence is meant to show the indifference the protagonist encounters in the job, and how it sends him spinning into Satan’s arms, but I dropped the boss like a bad habit after the first hundred or so pages.  He played a pretty big part in that first bit, but after there’s no more use for him, he’s never seen again.  I recognize that this leaves a pretty big hole in those wondering whatever happened to that asshole, but there was no other place to bring him back(although maybe there’ll be a place in the sequel).

Unfortunately for me, that’s not the only example.  I have a couple of other loose threads in that book, as well as a few in other novels.  It just seems that when a thread loses its usefulness, I drop it and don’t provide much resolution since I see the main story as the reason people are reading the story.  However, a few beta-readers have asked me what happened to (insert thread here), so it got me thinking about how to resolve such things.  I want to give satisfaction, but I also don’t want to ramble and take away from the main plot.

I think this comes back to planning carefully and trying, hard though it may be, to having foresight about where your story goes.  Those that meticulously outline can better keep track of these things, but those of us who outline a little but fly more by the seat of our pants are the ones most at risk for this.  That doesn’t make it necessarily bad, but I’m sure it can be frustrating for our readers.

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