Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Men aren't the only ones who get lost

It's Work in Progress Wednesday, which really means Work in Progress Musings (as the progress part is crawling along at a wounded snail's pace).

Meow. (Spongebob fans will get that.)

Anyhoo, I hardly ever watch TV, but a few years ago I got sucked into a certain show. You might have heard of it.

Not only was there the most attractive group of airplane crash survivors, but there was also some freaky black smoke that made a creepy noise, polar bears, and a psycho french lady. Then there was a hatch with a strange number countdown, the survivors from the other half of the airplane, and a group of "Others" who needed a doctor and kept their prisoners confined in a zoo cage while they had book club.


Exactly. Not only were the characters on the show lost, but I started getting lost. And I think the writers were definitely lost. It's like they didn't really plan what was happening, but when the show was a surprise hit they had to scramble to figure something out. I can imagine them sitting around some conference table stacked with doughnuts and coffee.

"What about a polar bear?" someone said.

"Sounds good. Throw it in."

"I'd really like a conspiracy," someone else said.

"Fine. Go for it."

"I've always had a thing for insane French women."

"Great! And that actress from Babylon 5 is available. She'll do."

"Oooo. You know what would really get our young married audience? What about a kidnapping? And someone's infertility problems miraculously getting fixed?"

"Perfect. Let's do that, too."

"And you know we could have a group of other survivors who don't fare as well."

"And they could fight. Great!"

"I know! Let's put an African drug-runner who's repenting from his past sins so he can't talk."

"Do it."

And so on. I quit watching either in the second or third season (I can't remember) because I felt like they were just throwing stuff in and never wrapping up *anything.*

And this week I realized that I was "Lost" with my WIP. Just like with the show, I was throwing in all kinds of things because it sounded good and I wasn't really sure where I was headed. I'm not talking about what happens at the end--I know that--but the end point of the whole book. What I want readers to think and feel when they're reading it.

An airplane route that is just a tiny bit off at the beginning of a flight can end up hundreds of miles off course at the end. And I had to step back and figure out where I would end up if I stuck to the course I was on. I had been trying for one type of overall emotional reaction, and I was bored with it myself and it just wasn't flowing. When I figured that out and changed my direction, the story started to flow much better.

Work In Progress Wednesday musings moral: stop every once in a while to check your course and make sure your story will end where you want it to, not marooned on a desert island in the middle of the ocean with polar bears and everything else under the sun.


Kimberly said...

What is wrong me that I'm suddenly wondering if I can work a crazy French lady into my WIP? I'm so impressionable...sheesh...

I like this advice you're offering here though. Checking course every now and again could prevent some pretty major disasters down the road...or flight path, for that matter.

ElanaJ said...

Dude, have you seen my WiP lately? You must have...this is exactly what I'm doing!! I'm totally lost and never know where I'm going. But I've done that before, written and written and written and then finally I have to go back and delete. Yeah, I'm friends with the delete key.

But you're so right! Now to get back on course...

Kate Karyus Quinn said...

LOL - I LOVE your pretend coversation from the Lost writer's room. Hilarious and so true. I actually am still watching that show just because I've made it this far and I now just need to see how the stupid thing ends.

Good luck getting unlost!

L.T. Elliot said...

I've been checking my course lately too and ended up finding out that I'm bushwacking my way through a whole new jungle. Who knew?

Deborah said...

Not to mention not even getting started because I don't know where I'm going.