Monday, August 2, 2010

Hidden Pictures, or Just When You Had It All Figured Out

Remember the magazine, "Highlights for Children?" A monthly, I think. Anyway, I used to go through it looking for the "Hidden Pictures" page each time my mother dragged me to the orthodontist's office--you know, the one with a list of objects you're supposed to identify within a larger, far more complicated picture? Maddening as hell. There were always two or three I gave up on, only to stumble across them while I was looking for something else entirely.

Last week's writing went something like that.

All week I'd been smugly picking my way toward my "I'm-sure-this-is-how-it's-going-to-go" ending for Reese's Leap, in-putting the final plot elements (later to be more fully developed, edited and polished), when I came across a Hidden Picture. Same kind of thing. I was looking for nothing more than a simple segue from one scene to another, when out of the blue one of my characters uttered a line to another that changed everything. Well, maybe not everything. At the risk of sounding overly dramatic here, let's just say this one innocent comment exposed a deeper truth at the base of the entire book. No lie. This, maybe twenty pages from the end. Imagine.

After a nerve-wracking half hour calculating how much rewriting it was going to take to make this change work (not so much as it turns out; appears the germs of this particular plot element had been there all along), I spent another bit of time wondering why this particular insight hadn't occurred to me before. Why a comparatively minor character knew more about where the book was headed than I did. Know what I decided? No matter how fast I try and pound my way toward the book's finish, gathering the seams of plot lines and cinching them in, the big truths simply won't be rushed. A fact it seems I have to relearn constantly.

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