I haven’t worked on my sci fi manuscript for the better part of a month, maybe more. I’ve felt, for quite a while, that something was not quite right with it, and I think I’m beginning to see what that might be. I’ve known that part of my problem is the conflict—the external conflict. My two main characters are in a race for their life, but I didn’t feel like it was coming across the page that way. Yes, they were racing, but I knew that things didn’t read that desperate.
Now, when I first began the manuscript almost a year ago (ack!), I started with a prologue told in a secondary character’s point of view. An important secondary character. And the prologue wasn’t back story—it related one of the opening events of the book, and planted a clue for later in the book. I read the prologue and the first part of chapter one at my chapter’s critique group meeting, and got lots of negative feedback on the prologue. Not on its actual writing, but on the (temporary) focus on a secondary character. “Cut it,” I was told.
Ok, scene cut. The story mostly works without it. And the rest of the writing sticks to the H/H POV’s. But because of that, I’ve struggled to show the whole story. This is sci fi—with a big badass enemy, 3 additional crew members on the heroine’s ship, plus a small assortment of other secondaries who help drive the story (and provide jumping off points for other interwoven stories that are still tangled in my brain). And the H/H don’t see everything that’s going on, some of which is rather significant.
“But this is a romance, right? You need to focus on the romance.” Yes, and no. I realized last November that I might be writing Science Fiction with Romantic Elements. And then I let the voices of the chapter critique group and other crit partners lull me into thinking I was writing Romance with Science Fiction Elements. But it isn’t working.
I must remember to listen to my own gut sometimes, and not get caught up in the herd mentality. Don’t get me wrong—both my chapter’s critique group and the smaller one I belong to are great, and have many talented, print-published writers who are generous with their time and experience. But, most of them write pure romance, several are category-length pure romance, and I’m wracking my brain to come up with one who’s published in paranormal (published in another subgenre and writing paranormal, yes). So, maybe their advice is perfect, just not for the manuscript that I’m writing.
So, I’m about halfway through Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol. I love it. Just like I loved his previous two novels, and the two National Treasure movies. The adventure. The chase. They mystery. I wish my story worked like that, with the added bonus of a little forbidden love to tangle everyone’s emotions along the way. Hence, my little revelation overnight about how I’ve killed my story.
I’m not Dan Brown, and Leap is unlikely to sell millions of copies before its even released (assuming its ever released). But he uses multiple POV’s (like a dozen so far), killing many of these secondaries while in their POV (and thus, pulling that camera back to a very omniscient view point). And its effective for me as a reader. Very effective. Forcing-my-husband-to-fall-asleep-with-a-pillow-over-his-eyes-to-shut-out-my-reading-light effective.
No, I’m not going to have like 20 POV’s in my novel, and I’m not going to kill every other one that I do use. But by golly, “rule” or no rule, I’ve got to show more of the story than I am. Because to reveal all of the action that the H/H don’t personally experience through dialogue is literally “telling” it, not showing it, and its not working for me. Some of that “off-stage” action is significant (in quantity and impact on the story), and it doesn’t deserve to be “off-stage.” My prologue might or might not come back. One of the other crew members might get a voice. And my big badass enemey (BBE?) might just get to cackle gleefully and rub his palms together over his evil plans to take over Earth. Shortly before he realizes how grossly he’s underestimated us lowly Earthlings, of course.
There, decision made. Of course, while I’ve been waffling on my “Leap” into sci fi, I’ve been chugging away at my category-length contemporary romance. That one’s fun too. No BBE, the whole story can be shown through the H/H. And a little forbidden love to tangle everyone’s emotions along the way. And Helmut and Claire are about to take their little affair to the most romantic city on earth (after a quickie in her kitchen, I think…)
God I love writing romance (and sci fi).