November 3, 2015 by Gregory Josephs
Forging Connections and the Perils of Serialization
I have this feeling that I am treading water in calm seas just ahead of a storm. I can see the dark clouds on the horizon and they’re moving in fast. I’m an excellent swimmer, so I’m not worried that I’ll drown, but I still don’t relish the idea of staying afloat on top of the coming, monstrous swells. I know I’m going to swallow a lot of water, and I know I’m going to have to fight—
In plainer terms, I am feeling a little overwhelmed. There’s a lot going on with this manuscript and I’m putting a lot of pressure on myself to get everything right.
In part one of my novel, Loss, my main objective was to portray Ryan as a naïve young kid that readers could relate to and/or bond with. I needed to present a number of situations where he could experience relatable emotions—love, jealousy, sorrow, embarrassment, grief, etc. Readers should be able to connect these feelings to experiences in their own lives thereby forging a tie to my protagonist through understanding of mutual experience. This is writing 101. Its basic. Its also not that difficult to do with a main character. We’re with Ryan for every sentence of the entire manuscript, so there is ample opportunity to provide situations to connect.
But in Metamorphosis I have to forge connections between readers and the other people in Ryan’s life. Characters like Meredith and Brandon are going to play much bigger roles so they can’t be flat and one-dimensional. They need back stories. They require issues of their own. Its important to the success of this project that these secondary characters become as real and (hopefully) three-dimensional as Ryan. Without giving too much away Metamorphosis entails a lot of building up relationships for the purpose of knocking them back down. By the end, Ryan is going to betray, sabotage or hurt almost everyone in his life. He’ll do it all without malice, but he’ll do it nonetheless.
None of it will make an impact if readers don’t care about who he’s hurting.
There’s something else. I mentioned in my post about drama versus melodrama that I had no interest in writing self-indulgent drivel. This isn’t a story about being dealt a poor hand in life. Thats what the first seven chapters were for, but now things are supposed to start getting ugly. Again, I can’t fully succeed at turning Ryan (at least temporarily) into a monster if his actions can’t be construed as monstrous. And how can his actions be monstrous if we don’t care about the people he is perpetrating them against? I need to write real characters. Its got to be raw and I need to present Ryan’s upcoming poor decisions and harmful actions unapologetically.
Okay, so whats the point? Whats the big deal? Why should any of this overwhelm me when I’ve laid out so clearly what needs to happen?
Its the format—the serialization. I am blessed at this point to have a small but dedicated group of readers and for their sake (for your sake?) I feel a lot of pressure to get it all right the first time through. Of course I understand thats not really how writing works. During the revision of these first twelve chapters I’ve added in and taken out so much. I’ve had the opportunity to incorporate everything that was lacking in the original drafts. But Chapter Nine is coming out this week—I only have three more chapters to revise. After that everything I put up will be a solid first draft and there is a great potential that in places I’m going to fall short. It’ll be remedied in the end, but not until the first writing of the manuscript is fully complete.
I wonder how Dickens and Hugo did it. Was Great Expectations secretly written in its entirety before the first bits were published?
I’ve just got to do my best and forgive myself the inevitable initial imperfections.
In any case, thanks for reading so loyally these past two months. This blog has been highly motivating to me, and I really do believe I can finish this thing before spring. The continued interest and support means the world. Chapter Nine will be available Friday morning—