Monday, January 08, 2007

I need to revise this scene?

Posted by Lisa

Gio. Now he was a favorite character of mine.

He was/is the main character's grandfather in my first middle grade novel. While writing that book, I loved to think about Gio. Before I went to sleep at night. While I drove to my Thursday night women's hockey. When I stirred spaghetti in a pot, poking at it to keep clumps from forming. Gio's childhood, growing up in a small Italian village was clear to me. His dialogue, mostly one-word utterances, were kind, encouraging. He made other characters feel more like he was giving them a hug than talking. No, Gio was integral to my main character, to make her choices more difficult, to increase the stakes she faced.

One evening during writers' group, many months back, someone raised a question about my novel-in-progress:
"Is Gio integral to the plot?" she said. "His scene in this chapter seems long. There's a lot of Gio here."
Clang. The sound of my pen toppling onto my chair as I dropped it.
Thump. The sound of it hitting the floor.
There could never be too much Gio.

The benefit of having a group critique our work, is that they may find "problems" where a writer doesn't think any lurk. The next day caring e-mails waited for me in my inbox. Suggestions, support were offered, but the message was clear: "this scene ain't workin, and somethin's gotta change." I had a problem and I had to fix it: too much Gio.

The fix wasn't difficult. Gio stayed - but less of him. More mystery about Tristan. More flair and hair and description for Elise. A month later I shared revisions with my writers' group. And they had been SO right. It read SO much better. And the scene moved the narrative forward. The way it was supposed to.

The value of any writers' group lay, in part, in the fresh set of eyes that look at your work. When those other three sets of eyes took a look at my work, they all found that the scene wasn't working. I needed to revise and that revision improved my novel.

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