This Thursday’s Child—Displaced Possibilities

Here are three possibilities that won’t come to fruition, eggs from a displaced sparrow’s nest. The parent birds thought they had the right location. Not that time. Smooth, speckled, apparently ideal to become cheeping nestlings, the potential within these eggs is gone.

The sparrows, undeterred, built a second nest to raise another clutch. Novelists face similar work. We can be quite pleased with scenes in a first raw draft, even incubate them through two or three subsequent edits, but none of us should be too surprised if at some point we realize that they won’t quite work.

Perhaps a conversation would carry much more power in a different setting. Maybe we’ve been trying to hatch well-developed character interaction, but from the wrong character’s viewpoint. At worst, the scene itself, possibly pages long, doesn’t move the maturing story forward, and can at best be used as a fragment of conversation: “Remember when we…?”

It’s to be expected that we’ll flutter for a while and squawk in dismay that some particular subtle phrase no longer has a place to exist; we’re human, after all. I’m facing this with the opening of my novel.

Once, I opened it in medias res, with a lengthy scene that curled into a flashback, then emerged into current action. I liked it, believed it made a classy circle. One critiquer told me she could see that opening scene running like a movie in her mind. And I was pleased.

The next person to give an opinion said that my hero was a voice in a fog to him, invisible. I was distressed. When the man went on to explain that my opening scene drained my story of tension, I then understood it had to go.

Now, this current version, though it answers ten questions readers shouldn’t have to ask, is deemed not to have enough hook. I”ll reassess things, and rewrite as often as necessary. I won’t be permanently deterred, and the potential in my story will some day be revealed.

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