Wednesday, January 22, 2014

And from order comes chaos

Yeah, yeah, usually it goes the other way around- bringing order out of chaos. As writers we deal with that all the time.  Whether we're a plotter or a pantser we take rough, chaotic ideas and bring them into some sense of understandable order.

Most of the time.

However, there can be some chaos sneaking back in during the serious editing stages.

This most commonly occurs when a scene goes on walk-about.  We write the scene at a specific point in the story, certain things have already happened, others are yet to come.  The scene carries with it a vibe of that part of the story.  More importantly, it is a snapshot of the character and their arc at that point of the story.

Then we decide it belongs somewhere else.  Often that's a good thing--sometimes the scene is awesome, it's just in the wrong spot.  So we cut and paste it, tweak any glaring plot issues, and move on.

But we've just taken a scene from the character on day fifteen and moved it to a point at day one hundred and twenty-five.  Not only do we have to make sure any plot issues are resolved within the scene we just migrated into a time-warp, we have to check out character development.

The easiest example was from a tv show I just saw.  It was clear they ran an episode way out of order even though this show is mostly built of self-contained episodes and isn't really a long arc for most of the plot points.  But it was pretty clear that for one reason or another, a show shot earlier on got aired much later.

How could I tell? The characters.  The development of the characters at that point (previous to our time jumping ep) was more advanced than the mis-placed episode. The wandering episode was still showing far more world building as well as re-hashing things about the main characters that had been established weeks ago.

Books can face the same issue.  If we're not very careful about how we move and adapt EVERYTHING when we relocate a chapter we can end up creating chaos out of order. The reader may not even be able to pin down why things seem off, just that they are. And bam- you just pulled that reader out of your book.

So next time you're slicing and dicing your world, make sure you keep the chaos out.  Look long and hard at who your characters are emotionally and mentally at each section and make sure they match when they move.


  1. I dread getting to the editing part of my book. I'm having way too much fun writing it!

    1. LOL! Editing isn't evil, honest, Elsie :). Some folks even like it more than writing! Ok, for the most part not me--but sometimes it is nice to be able to go through stuff you've already realized isn't half bad and make it even better. Thanks for coming by and commenting!

  2. I'm currently having this very issue. After some critiques at a recent writers conference, where it was suggested that "perhaps" my story should start in a different place, I took a hard look and decided that perhaps nothing, it would be more effective to start at another point in the story. Now all those places where I explain the past, I've already shown how things got to be the way they are. All this exposition is becoming repetition. And both are bad. Argh.

    Timely post for me, Marie. Thanks.

    1. OUCH! That is painful, Sharon :(. *hands over some chocolates in sympathy* Just keep reminding yourself "I'm making it better....I'm making it better...." Keep up the good fight! Thanks for coming by and commenting!