An Inside Look at Revision: What Time Is It? Are We There Yet?

Aubrey: Remnants of Transformation is available on Amazon and Smashwords. With every chapter, I posted notes about the process of revision.

Chapter 8

A niggling but important part of writing, like film editing, is remembering times and distances. Tolkien could tell you where his characters were every minute and every mile--he knew exactly how long it took to get from here to there in Middle Earth and whether the sun would have set or risen when a character arrived.

Other writers are less careful, resulting in scenes like in Psych in which break-that-fourth-wall Shawn informs another character, "Wow, you changed fast!"

On the other hand, writers like Connie Willis make the problem of time and distance part of the conflict. We assume that Character A can easily get from point A to point B, but can she really? Willis uses this problem to great effect in To Say Nothing of the Dog. She uses it also in Blackout and All Clear. As explorations of World War II, the two books are fascinating although the pressure (and failure) of characters to get from A to B does wear thin. We can only watch the car circle the block so many times.

Still, Willis's point is a good one to remember. One of the criticisms of Pamela--that Pamela could leave at any time--fails to take this basic problem in consideration: how does one leave? And when? I address Pamela's problem specifically here.
Little Red Riding Hood by Gustave Doré *

Chapter 8 of Aubrey was revised a few times for precisely this problem. In the original version, Aubrey, Charles, and Malcolm visited Lord Simon at night. In a later version, the visit took place during the day. At one point, since I wanted Aubrey to escape the Academy at dusk, the meeting again took place at night. But then I decided that was too quick; between Aubrey escaping and reaching Charles, the police capture Dmitri; Lord Simon hears about Aubrey's reversion, and Sir James tracks Aubrey down. This isn't steampunk--no cell phones (the amazing steampunk graphic novel Black Butler includes cell phones or at least a car phone)!

When I altered Chapter 7 to keep Aubrey in the park longer, I had to revise Chapter 8, so Aubrey arrives at Lord Simon's in the early morning.

8:30 p.m. Aubrey escapes the Academy and Dmitri
8:30-8:45 p.m. Dmitri is caught by police
8:30-9:00 p.m. Jacobs informs Lord Simon of Aubrey's transformation
9:00-10:00 p.m. Lord Simon informs Sir James that he wants to interview Aubrey
10:00 p.m. + Sir James and the Academy get into a flutter; Sir James starts looking for Aubrey
11:00-11:30 p.m. Aubrey, as a cat, becomes conscious of the passage of time and heads to the Shops gate where she decides to wait
5:30 a.m. Aubrey sees Charles and reverts
5:45 a.m. Sir James arrives at the police station
6:00 a.m.-7:00 a.m. Sir James takes Aubrey to Lord Simon; Charles sets out to interrogate Dmitri

As a consequence, I had to go back and make sure that all the descriptive elements pointed in the same direction: day when it is day; night when it is night.

Distances cause the same problem. One of the amazing things about Bones and NCIS is how quickly people get from Washington D.C. to Virginia to Maryland in a single day! (I think transporters are probably involved somehow.)

*I chose the delightful fairytale illustration by Gustave Doré for Chapter 8 because it illustrates so well Lord Simon's predatory yet charismatic nature. Little Red Riding Hood's wolf is often characterized as both villain and seducer--Cinderella's prince of Sondheim's Into the Woods always also plays the wolf, and Broadway gave him about as Freudian a costume as it could get away with (without just making Robert Westenberg strip).

On a side note, Walt Disney was heavily influenced at the beginning of his own fairytale career by German illustrators like Doré. One can see that influence especially in the first full-length fairytale film, Snow White. Just compare the image from Snow White (following) to the image from Doré (below):



May 26, 2014


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