Yesterday was Dad’s birthday. “Was,” damn it. Not “would have been”. Because, as I’ve said elsewhere, he still had stories to tell, and I’m sure he’s gonna hang around until he finds a way to tell them.
Granted, not in a corporeal sense, because that would just be creepy (and I say that as someone who writes fantasy). But here.
And then there are those other ways he’s still around…
I was making a note for the next draft of the novel-in-progress and realized I had started it with the phrase “We need to find a way to justify…” Even though it’s been six months since I last worked on Mo’less and even though every word of this book is one I wrote, yes, I’m still making notes in the first person plural.
But Dad critiqued multiple drafts of Splat Squad and Lord Peter’s Eyes. He always had good suggestions, even when I showed him individual scenes where he didn’t know who was who or what was going on. I didn’t always agree with his suggestions, but when I didn’t, figuring out why I didn’t like them usually gave me an idea to make the book better.
I wrote 1,524 words yesterday. (It was probably closer to 2,000 words, but there was this familiar voice in the back of my head saying things like “Are you sure you want to say it like that?” and “That doesn’t sound like her. What about…?” So it was 1,524 net words.) Most of them were for a scene that could easily be dismissed as filler. It’s not wildly exciting–but then, I’m not writing an action movie, so every scene doesn’t have to end with an explosion. It’s not critical to the plot*–except that most stories need a reminder that everyday life is going on even while the characters are dealing with The Most Important Thing That Ever Happened. (There’s a scene in The RagTime Traveler–one of my favorite scenes, in fact–where some of our main characters opt out of the ongoing investigation so they can do a load of laundry.)
* Or at least I don’t think it is. For all I know, the most exciting scene in the book couldn’t happen without the events I just wrote. One of the joyous hazards of not being an outliner.
But one of the important lessons I learned from Dad is to let your characters do what they want*. Nothing good will come from forcing them to do what you want.
* Another, arguably more important, lesson is that a mid-afternoon craving for a cookie shouldn’t be neglected. So I had a Florentine concoction of almonds and chocolate in his honor.
And so, when [redacted] wanted to visit [purged] and take him to task for discriminating against [censored], I let him.
At the moment it seems like a good idea, but if it turns out the scene doesn’t add anything to the book, I’ll make another note: “We should junk this.”
And we will.