I have been working on wrapping my head around this re-vision editing project. One thing I have always known about how I wrote this novel down, is that there was WAY too much expressed through character thoughts rather than character actions/interactions. I have highlighted places with comments like “Dear God find a way to make this emotional” and places highlighted with the color that meant “This is irrelevant or too detailed; cut it out.” Beyond identifying passages that were simply too many thoughts, however, I hadn’t really been able to figure out how to impart all of those pieces of character backstory that I feel are pertinent to explaining who a character is or why they are the way they are. There was also maybe a bit too much of telling that the characters were coming to trust each other and not quite enough showing of it.
A few days ago, driving to work, I had an epiphany: at least some of the backstory could be told to the love interest. I mean, duh! What is one of the first things you do when you start falling for someone?: FIND OUT EVERYTHING ABOUT THEM AND WHERE THEY COME FROM AND WHAT THEY HAVE EXPERIENCED AND TELL THEM ABOUT YOURSELF. This was a holy shit how did I not see that moment.
I suppose it’s because most of the stories I’ve written (on) to this point involved characters who already knew one another and were moving from friends/sibling-like-feelings to lovers – they don’t need to discuss their pasts, because they both know each other’s past. The other novel I’ve worked extensively on with characters who were unacquainted has a conflict that basically hinges on the fact that they struggle to open up to one another and either ask for or tell anything about each other.
It’s actually really exciting to me to think about morphing some of these pieces of personal history from character-t0-reader into character-to-character. The hero telling the heroine about hiding coal under his bed as a child so that there would be enough to heat his baby sister’s room through the winter is going to give her a great deal of insight into his life situation, and the reader would still experience the same sympathy for him as they would if he just thinks about it (i.e., tells the reader). BUT the revelation is framed in a way that highlights it better, because it will be symbolic of the relationship between hero/heroine advancing a step. It will also help smooth out one section of too-much-thinking. Plus there is inherently more drama to one person confessing something to another, than simply reflecting on a piece of his past that he’s carried with him for years.
I haven’t yet identified all the places in the text that need this sort of shift, but it’s a new lens through which to view this story (or, more accurately, how I am telling it), and for the first time since I started looking at this revision project I feel like I have a clear and positive step to take.