Consequences

It’s the last day of 2013, and I’m probably going to take the day off from Bandit’s Moon and just chill out for the day. But that doesn’t mean I’m not thinking about what happens next and what I’ll be writing tomorrow.

As I’ve mentioned in many contexts, I don’t outline the story before I start writing. I don’t write to a formula (this kind of thing happens at the quarter mark, this other kind of thing happens at the 60% mark, etc.). I make it up as I go along, and the story evolves organically, instinctively.

It works for me. It probably wouldn’t work for you, unless you’ve done this a lot.

So every few days, I’m planning out what’s going to happen in the next couple of chapters. Sometimes the day before I’m planning what’s going to happen in the next chapter. And sometimes new ideas pop up, changing the direction of the next chapter.

That’s where I am right now.

Tomorrow I’ll start Chapter 11 of Bandit’s Moon. It’s rolling along pretty good, and up until last night, I knew pretty much what I was going to do with it. But then I went a little funny in the head.

Private detectives gather information for whatever case they’re working on in one of two ways – through direct observation, action and gathering of “clues” (as they say in the detection business…) and by talking to people.

There’s been some of both in Bandit’s Moon thus far. More talking than gathering physical or visual evidence, because private investigators get more of their information that way. I could have Welles lift latent fingerprints from a scene – I know how and I’ve done it myself – but once you have them, you need to compare them against something, and that usually requires a police crime lab – and even with Welles’s good police contacts, that’s a stretch. Doable, but why would I want to go there?

So there’s a lot of conversation with different people. Not styrofoam peanut blah-blah designed to fill out the real stuff in the chapter. It all has a purpose. It all gives Welles more information, the reader more information, and moves the story along.

But as much as I like writing it, sometimes I sense that it’s time for something different.

I started thinking about approaching the story in the next couple of chapters a little differently, giving them a different flow and feel without changing, in the end, what they were going to accomplish and where those chapters would leave me for what’s to come. Because in the end, there’s always a lot of different paths to get you to the same place. The trick is to pick the right one.

So I decided to make something happen. But then I ran into the wall of Consequences.

Everything has consequences. Every action. The whole Butterfly Effect thing that I’m not going to get into. Conversation has consequences, but it can be written to either lessen or enhance those consequences, based on what the characters say. Actions, on the other hand, can be written a lot of different ways, but the action itself has consequences that are pretty much going to happen based on that action, regardless of how it’s written. Because of simple logic.

Logic is cruel. Story logic is even crueler. I can’t just make something happen because I want it to. I have to think through the consequences, what’s next if that ‘something’ happens. And sometimes those consequences are not what I want, will turn the whole damn story upside down or take it in a direction I don’t want to go.

It can be worked around, and it can even be worked around in a satisfying manner that works. Take the movie Heat, for example. Cops and robbers. The cops are watching the robbers before their next big score. More important, the robbers know that the cops are watching. Logic says that the robbers would lay low, let the heat die down, let the cops come up empty. But that wouldn’t make for a very satisfying story.

So Michael Mann gives the robbers a reason to keep on going with their planned heist. The leader of the crew wants to make one more score and get out of the business. The other guys in the crew buy into it, out of loyalty, arrogance, whatever. So even knowing that they’re being watched, that it all might blow up in their faces, they go on with their plan. Satisfying, yes. Logical? Well, sorta. Not real-world logical, but it’s okay for story-world logical. And in the end, it’s all about “well, it could happen this way” and not “well, it would happen this way”.

That’s where I am today. I know what I want to happen. There are a couple of different ways it could happen, different degrees of happening. With each of them, there’s story-world consequences. Logical story-world consequences.

What I’m doing right now is weighing those consequences. Figuring out how I can avoid consequences that will take things in the wrong direction, or make it harder for me down the road. All while remaining logical.

I think I’m almost there. By the time I start Chapter 11 tomorrow, I better be…

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