One Story Detail is Bogging Me Down


I seldom write about a novel I’m writing. That’s too meta for me. I rarely talk to others about my work in progress–I end up contradicting myself and sounding confused. It’s usually best if I let my writing do the talking for me.

Today is the exception. Work-in-progress is a novel called (for now) THE SUITOR. The story centers on three characters: recent college-grad and law-school-bound Anna; the shady and ambitious Kyle, who loves her; and Anna’s father, Art, who doesn’t think the idea of Anna and Kyle together is a good one.

That’s the bare bones.

I’m navigating somewhere in middle of draft six. I’m no longer lost, wandering without purpose or direction. I think I’ve figured out where this story is going. The characters are controlling the narrative, the plot is tightening, the voice finding the extent of its range.

But I’ve got what you might call a tradecraft problem right near the end, in the last ten pages. A sequence of short scenes needs to be reordered, and then logically connected.

Scenario: Anna, Art, and Anna’s mother, Debra, are together at their family’s lakehouse in the final sequence. Anna has been through conflict and crisis, and lived to tell about it. She’s ready to leave. They have two cars that they must drive back home, three hours away. Anna and her mother leave in one car, with Art to follow in the other after dealing with a couple of final matters at the house.

Anna and Debra leaving first allows Art to be alone for an important scene with Kyle, but then I must get Anna and her mom back to the house so they can discover what happened in their brief absence.

Easy: Anna says she forgot something and has to go back and get it.

What did she forget? It doesn’t matter, I think. A charging cable, a wallet, a piece of jewelry.

But then I realize it’s not so easy. Because why not just have Anna call Art and have him bring the object along when he leaves? No, that won’t work. I have to get Anna and her mother back to the house.

Suddenly, this left-behind object takes on significance. It has to be something Anna doesn’t want her father to know about or see. Now the solution is getting complicated.

What is the one thing that would make Anna turn around, the one thing she can’t ask her father to bring for her? A letter from Kyle? A special gift? A stash of drugs? None of the ideas seemed to work.

So I tried a different direction: What if Anna and her mother run into town for a few errands and then come back before finally heading out for the long drive? During that interval, the important scene between Art and Kyle can take place. But that solution feels too manufactured.

Problems and solutions, both small and large. That’s what a lot of writing comes down to. This problem is seemingly small, but I haven’t found its solution yet.

By David Klein

David Klein

Published novelist, creative writer, journalist, avid reader, discriminating screen watcher.


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