Thursday, December 21, 2006

Two Plotlines Diverged in a Wood

Two plotlines diverged in a yellow wood... And I don't know which is the road less traveled or how to choose. I am working on a novel that has both fantasy and realistic elements. It has developed a split personality. There is a point in the plot when it could go in one of two directions. The one takes it further and faster into fantasy territory. The other keeps the setting more realistic, while the fantasy elements appear in that realistic setting. I cannot seem to write my way through this.

Is my dilemma the mark of a larger problem, a lack of clear vision for the overall story? I had been working on it with the realistic grounding and fantasy elements invading. I had gotten quite a bit written that way. Then, I re-read it and suddenly, it seemed to make sense, and be a better read, to thrust it pellmell into a fantasy realm at an early point in the narrative, thus scrapping my earlier work. But some of that earlier work is good stuff!

"To scrap, or not to scrap - that is the question." God help us all when we have to tackle major rewrites and revisions. It truly is a "re-vision." Seeing the whole piece anew.


  1. Above all, don't scrap. I'll go out on a limb and say it'll all come together in time, with a little work. If anything, the sticking point sounds like culture shock...or the beginnings of a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup.

    "Hey, you put your fantasy in realism!"

    "You got your realism in my fantasy!"

    Okay, jokes aside. I got the impression (correct me on this) that most of your fiction work has been mimetic. Mimicking the real world. Until now, realism and fantasy have been completely separate. Not mutually exclusive, just self-sufficient. Maybe that's changed.

    Hence my initial thought. Reconcile the mimetic and fantasy elements. There are ways where those elements can co-exist without undermining each other's significance. Whether it's sci-fi tech or magic scrolls, it's important to nail down the "rules" for fantasy elements.

    Look back at your work on Frankenstein. You had to define the monster for that script. You've made those decisions before. You can handle it.

  2. I was talking with a friend last night about the way fantasy and realism mix so fluidly in Latin-American literature. "They're writing in the Dream Time," said he. The conversation hadn't stemmed from my struggles with this piece at all, but suddenly, the solution was staring me in the face. There's a model for me to look to, and look to it I shall. The piece itself had begun to take me down this road via the word "interstate" of all things. (The moment in the plot that generated this dilemma happened while the two main characters were driving to a new home.) Interstate - "Between two states." The states of realism and fantasy. So, the fluidity of that place, the "dream time" or "interstate" is what I must now shoot for.

    Thanks for your words of encouragement.

    My more recent fiction work has been mimetic, as you said. But much of my earlier, less focused writing, was dreamlike in nature - not traditional fantasy or sci-fi, but in a strange and surreal realm, I guess. That's the stuff I'm not public about, but perhaps there too is a clue for me to follow.


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