Thursday, August 1, 2013

Scene Rescue—When Collaborators Disagree & Live To Tell The Tale

Love doesn’t always run a smooth path (no kidding!) and neither does collaboration. There are inevitably going to be times when you and your co-author—in my case my DH, Michael—don’t see a character, a scene, even a line of dialogue the same way. 
Most of the time while we were writing HOOKED Michael and I were in synch but there was one scene about which we had radically different opinions. I hated it so much I deleted it. Michael, appalled, retrieved it from the trash.
The scene occurs midway through the book and involves two characters. One is Gavin Jenkins, the brilliant and charismatic doctor who is at the center of the story. The other is Adriana Partos, a world-famous concert pianist who retired at the request of her lover, billionaire tycoon, Nicky Kiskalesi. Now, however, Nicky misses Adriana’s fame and celebrity and wants her to come out of retirement.
The problem is that arthritis has made it impossible for Adriana to play without pain. Nicky, who didn’t get rich by giving up, suggests she consult Gavin Jenkins, a doctor who, it seems, can cure almost anything. Adriana, reluctant but also afraid of losing Nicky, agrees to meet with Gavin.
As the scene was originally drafted, Adriana dislikes Gavin for intuitive reasons: she finds him slick and cold although no specific reasons are given. The scene, based on her instinctive dislike, seemed weak and unconvincing to me: ergo, the delete button. Michael convinced me the scene was necessary and could be made to work.
The question was: how? I trust Michael’s opinions so we had several conversations about why I hated the scene and why he thought it essential. We finally got to an agreement point when we decided that “something” specific had to happen in the scene to validate Adriana’s dislike of Gavin, a dislike so intense that she slaps him and walks out of his consulting room.
Having no idea of what the “something” was, I went to the computer to rewrite the scene. I took out the language referring to her “intuitive” dislike of his “coldness” and “hidden” personality. When I got to the exact lines that describe Gavin taking her arm in an intimate, almost caressing way and giving her the shot for which he has become known, the words, coming straight from my unconscious to the keyboard, emerged on the screen: “You’ve never felt this good, have you?” he whispers as he presses down on the syringe and the fluid enters her vein.
That brief line of dialogue—completely unanticipated—was a result of our previous conversations about the characters and the scene and gave us the “something” we needed.
In response, Adriana slaps Gavin, he calls her a bitch and tries to give her a second (different) injection but, by then, she has left. The scene ends with her standing outside his office and remembering the bulge in his pants. Was she seeing things? Imagining things? Or did he have an erection as he administered the shot?
Since we already know about Gavin’s sexual quirks from earlier scenes, we now had a compelling scene that advances the plot, creates conflict between Adriana and the gifted doctor whose help she will need and adds a new dimension to Gavin’s intriguing, mysterious character.
Sometimes disagreement is the friction that produces the pearl. You just have to get from there to here.

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  1. What a great example of how collaboration can make a better book. Whether it's a writing partnership or an editor/writer situation, two heads really can be better than one. Or sometimes the "collaboration" can be between two halves of your own brain--your muse who says "but I love this scene" and your inner editor who says "bo-ring."

    And what a fantastic solution you found. It's the kind of detail that elevates fiction from a ho-hum story to bestseller.

    1. Anne—thanks! Your comment about the two halves of the writer's brain is on-target. Important not to confuse your muse with your ego! :-) Your inner editor is there for a reason. Pay attention to him/her or pay the price!

      Mies said "God is in the details." He was talking about architecture but what he said also applies to fiction. Big time!