Stealing from Peter to Pay Paul

Day 4 of Revision Boot Camp

Image by SFC Peter G Verisano. Click for a full gallery of his work.
Image by SFC Peter G Verisano. Click for a full gallery of his work.

“The first draft of anything is shit.”
— Ernest Hemingway

Today’s drill is on interactions, or ‘stealing from Peter to pay Paul.’

Everything that happens in a story affects more than one character. It is the nature of literature. If a good story is truer than if it really happened (paraphrasing Hemingway again), then the action should be woven together like a tight mesh. If you pull on one thread, that pull reverberates through the entire mesh–every thread.

Nothing can happen in isolation.

What does that mean to your story? If you choose any major event in your story, it should effect at least three characters in some way. Yes, I said THREE. Even if it involves the love of two people, one of them has to have a connection to someone else-an ex or a gasp husband. My question to you is this: are your major events fully expressed through the book?

ASSIGNMENT: Make a chart of some of the key events of your book: the inciting incidemt, the first major complication, the midpoint and climax. For each event, make a list of the characters affected. Now skim through the story: are those effects expressed through character actions? Have you missed something?

You might be surprised by just how much additional tension can be created when the reverberating effects of a single event keep coming up through different characters of the book. Tension makes readers turn pages.

And where’s the MONEY?

And if you rob Peter, what happened to the money? As a former Economics major, I can tell you that in real life, if you want to understand a stream of actions, follow the money. Is it the same with your book? Money should follow a path that helps to reveal plot and character. It’s a powerful story element. USE IT.

So make certain that you are UTILIZING the whole story. Let your readers fully experience every major event. Kinda fun when we run into someone in Chapter 30 who is still reeling from an event in Chapter 3. Surprise us, BLINDSIDE us, but make sure the readers know enough that they should have expected this.

Tricky? I never said fiction was easy. Good luck, Private.

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3 Comments

  1. Great, Patrick. I’m glad it’s helpful. This boot camp willl last for 21 straight days. It’s actually a series of revision passes I developed with my first book. I’m revising my next book, PARADOX, at the same time I’m writing it. I wish you great success with your manuscript!

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