Saturday, July 30, 2011

Sooty is Growing and Changing

I started writing yesterday, then realized I needed to get a more definite outline. I don't use a specific, point by point outline, but I do find it helps to have a sense of character relationships and developments, and plot points along the way to give me a sense of what I'm working towards.

When I start revising, I like to make a detailed outline of what's in each scene. This is really useful for that nagging feeling of 'didn't I say that already?'

So I set to work on the overall structure, and realized that the opening would work much better if I didn't introduce Sooty right away. Let the reader get a sense of Anna's life, and the domestic issue that is fouling things up for her, before Sooty comes in. At first he seems to be a deus ex machina, but is actually even more complications and dilemmas.

Therefore, much of yesterday's work was pulling out scenes and rearranging them, then writing them into a semblance of a coherent whole.

I wish I could do that often advised 'just get the first draft done, then worry about revision', but I don't seem to be able to swing it. If I see an egregious failing, I have to go back and try to poke it into cooperation.

Here is a bit from the beginning:

They were at it again. Not quite fighting, but arguing. Always now, always they were arguing.
      “You're just like all the men I work with. You don't see a person, you see mobile boobs. I've got a mind. And feelings. Just like you.”
      Anna could hear a sharp reply, but couldn't make out her father's words.
      Then her mom again, loud and clear. “I take that back. I'm a person. You're a narrow minded bigot.”
      Anna cowered in her bed. Not that she wasn’t used to these fights. They'd been happening more and more often. It didn’t take any brains to figure out her mom was unhappy, but why'd she have to make the rest of them unhappy, too?
      She squeezed her pillow hard, wishing she had something alive to cuddle. Her friend Jay had a cat, a big fluffy calico. Anna loved to pet it and hear its rumbling purr. Just looking at it made her feel soft and cozy. She could use that comfort right now.
     She'd asked her parents if she could get a cat. They'd said no.
      Her mom was talking again, something about needing to be herself or something. Why? She had a job she loved, a family she said she loved – what more could she want?
      Anna debated turning up the volume on her music, but instead decided to take a shower. The water drown everything, even her own tension. At least for a while. She rolled off the bed, and had one foot on the floor when someone knocked at her door.
      “Anna?” Her mother's voice.
      Oh boy. When her mom had been arguing with dad, she often came in to talk at Anna. And usually it was the same speech. Don't waste your opportunities. Don't try to be someone you're not. And oh, by the way, you need to be more outgoing. Get more friends. Maybe try a new hairstyle. Not that her floppy straight brown hair would hold a style. Even the permanent her mom had coaxed her into a couple years ago had flopped. And she preferred glasses. Putting her contacts in took too long.
      Her mom never seemed to run out of suggestions, though. Anna got the feeling her mother was trying to relive her own life through her. That felt better than admitting that her mom was disappointed in her.
      On top of everything else, her mother always hoped she’d be popular. Anna couldn't figure this out, since her mother wasn’t social. Her career at the university kept her busy. Too busy for her family, came the inevitable conclusion to that line of thought.
      Anna sighed. “What?”
      Her mom opened the door slowly, then peeked around to catch Anna's eyes. "Can I talk to you a second?"
      When Anna nodded, her mom stepped in, her hand gripping the edge of the door as she pushed it almost shut. She stood that way, her lips pressed tightly together, her eyes on the floor, until with a visible breath she let her hand fall. She leaned against the door, and it closed with a soft click
      Anna lowered her head and made sharp little folds in the sheets.
      “Anna… I'm sorry about the yelling. I've been trying to make a decision. I need to do something.”
      Anna didn't answer; she was waiting for the rest of the lecture.
      Her mom fidgeted around the room, opening and closing drawers, straightening the papers on the desk, twirling the cord of the blinds.
      “Anna, I do love you. And Alan. And I love your father. Please try to understand.”
      She was gone. There'd been no time for a reply, even if Anna had had one to offer.
      Anna held held up hands. With almost clinical interest, she noted that they were shaking. She let them fall, and turned her head to stare blindly at the closed door. Something was going to happen. She had no idea what, but she knew it wouldn't be good.

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