An expression I used at the end of a blog post a couple of weeks back, was ‘re-imagining the story’. It came up at a recent Facets of Fiction workshop during which we were discussing a first draft of a novel chapter.

It was an exciting chapter in which two of the good guys found their way to the hideout of two of the bad ones! Once there, a confrontation took place in which the good guys had to impose their will upon the bad by force. The sequence of events was plausible, the action convincing, and the chapter broke down into several internal sequences, each a stepping stone in the story’s path: getting to the hideout; confronting the bad guys; push turning to shove; the lesser bad guy repenting; the greater taking a stand. In fact, to my way of thinking, it was a three-chapter chapter!

But then, I’m a putter-in, rather than a taker out. And here was a chapter, it seemed, crying out for more to be put in. What was already there worked well, on a sentence to sentence basis. The writing had clarity, and sharp imagery, and good dialogue. It was well written, but what was missing from the story offered a whole lot more grist for the reader’s imagination.

Each discernible section could have been filled out. The journey could have been made an epic journey, an adventure in itself, and not only in the physical sense. What about the doubts and certainties that would help or hinder the protagonists over each obstacle they encountered, and which would reveal the differences, in commitment, in understanding, in motive, between them? What about the hopes and fears that drove them on?

What about the hopes and fears of the bad guys? Did they expect to be discovered? If they were going to divide under pressure, would the cracks already be showing? And what about the hideout itself? Was it a fortress or a rat trap? How did the actuality compare, for all those involved, with their expectations?

When there are so many questions to be answered, and answered as part of the told story rather than as part of that untold story – which Hemingway has warned us that writers must know, even if they don’t reveal it, if the story is not to appear full of holes – it might not be enough to be merely a putter in, however telling the additions.

This is the situation that calls for that ‘re-imaging of the story’: to play it again (temptation resisted), as if remembering past events, and to tell it more fully in the light of that remembering.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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