Monday, August 29, 2016

Pantser Confessions

I never thought I could get myself into such a tangle in the course of writing a plain, old-fashioned traditional romance. This book has taken a lot longer than I'd projected, but I think I've finally reached “The End.” After the editor gets it, there may yet prove to be a few slips between the cup and the lip, but that's the way it's been ever since I started this story, a sequel to Hand-Me-Down Bride, which is a story about a German mail order bride, brought to Pennsylvania to marry a wealthy older man. 
Another book, set in Pennsylvania farm country, in the home of the now happily married older sister, in the time just after the Civil War, looked, at first glance, to be a snap. A nice title, Butterfly Bride,  jumped into my head, instead of waiting until the last second to put in an appearance, like so many titles do. 
As you may know, in the writing world, I’m (more or less) a "pantser".  This used to feel easy-peasey, but in this case, it turned out to be a case of "not so much".  There was a sketchy  outline at first but the characters spent a lot of time avoiding me, going into hiding after I wrote the first four chapters.

It’s taken a long time to get to know anything about them.  And I know I’ve blamed the heroine, Miss Elfrieda Neiman, casually called “Elfie.” She’s very pretty and rather immature, this Butterfly Bride. She's not the only one who has fluttered around, though, refusing to follow my nice neat outline, not by a long chalk.

To be fair to my girl, Elfie has three suitors, all quite different, and each one offering things/experiences which are attractive. Of course, all of them are decidedly good looking. 

Bachelor #1 is filthy rich--or at least, lives as if he is. He's the heir-apparent sort of prospect a pretty lady from a down-on-their luck family is supposed to jump at. Bachelor #2 is a muscular smith/farrier, a veteran and proud owner of a winning trotting horse, whose large family works the timber on the nearby ridge. Bachelor #3 is a thoughtful, musical, educated man of the cloth, who lost a leg and nearly died fighting at the Battle of Spotsylvania.
All three of these characters, as soon as I began to imagine them beyond their cardboard cutouts, revealed unexplored depths as well as some serious demons. I was forced to confront the fact that it takes more exposition to establish characters who were so determined to pop into three dimensions.
As a result, what should have been a nice little bare-bones sequel got complicated. I’ve been enduring months of those writer’s nights where you go to bed and lie half-awake, running scenes in your head—some of which, by the light of day, turn out not to be so great. And that’s a pain in the you-know-what, because, despite remaining sleepless until 3 a.m., the nagging problem/plot point remains without a solution.

What are they saying? Where are they now? If it’s a party—and with pretty gad-about Elfie and her social young friends, it often seemed to be. Who else is there in the crowd scene that these willful characters have dragged me into? Are they dancing, eating, or just hanging out?  And, more to the point, what are they thinking? 
Finally, however, after a final week long marathon of 10 hour days and "No More waffling, Mrs. Waldron--FINISH THE STORY", my young heroine started to grow up a tad and at last settled upon Mr. Right. She just needed a few more jolts, some of those "learning experiences" which we all dread so much, to discover the truth of what had always been right there, inside her heart.

Juliet Waldron
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