I’ve previously noticed about myself that I’m a glutton for punishment.
As it happens, I’m pretty adept at doling it out for myself too. Nobody is harsher with my work, less impressed with my excuses, or harder to satisfy with my accomplishments than me.
And I’ve done a fair amount of kvelling here on the blarg about the knots that working on this novel has tied me into. The self-imposed deadlines, the lingering sense of doubt about whether any of the writing is any good, and the general disarray with which I’ve approached the edit, just to name a few. Last time, however, I pointed out (with not a hint of ego!) that I was done with phase one of the edit and slowly bringing the ship around for the next leg of the journey. That leg starts tomorrow, with all the notes that I’ve made on the draft and the (troublingly extensive) list of holes I have to plug to make the thing seaworthy. In short, the task ahead was looking gargantuan, but achievable.
Then, this morning, I had an idea. A fantastic idea. An awful idea. An awfully fantastic idea, and a fantastically awful one. The idea that I’ve had is an excellent one.
I love this idea. I think it does wonders for the story and it provides an element that perhaps has been missing all along while escaping my notice. It affords me a way to tie up some loose ends which I will readily admit were a bit hastily tied in the first draft and need some serious re-tying in the second. It gives me a chance to bring some redemption to a character who could sorely use some and some doubt and aspersion for one who is a little too pristine and unsullied. I can get a lot done towards the fixing of this story with the inclusion of this idea.
I also hate this idea. It came out of nowhere and I wonder if including it will feel a little bit Deus ex Machina-ish. Including it will also include the re-writing of several — by which I mean more than I can count on one or maybe two hands and possibly also my feet — critical sections of the book. It will mean lengthening the narrative to make room for the new stuff, and I sort of feel that the story is at a good enough length already. It will mean not so much tweaking and trimming in rewrites as breaking and smashing and gutting.
“It” is a new character, and the idea for him struck me while I was watching, of all things, “Mater’s Tall Tales” with my two-year-old this morning. In short, my novel is about characters living on two sides of a magical divide and figuring out how to make that work — this guy’s role would be to keep the rest of them from doing so. TO BRING BALANCE TO THE FORCE. Well, maybe to my narrative. He’s sort of an antagonist to the antagonists, but he’s certainly not on the side of the protagonists. To sum it up without giving details away, he’s a monkey wrench. And while throwing this monkey wrench into the whirring innards of my story might do really fascinating things to the narrative, it will without a doubt do to the actual machinery of the story what actual monkey wrenches do to actual machines, which probably involves breaking it beyond recognition before I start putting it back together again.
I may take a day to ponder the ramifications of making this change, because it’s a whole boatload of extra work I was not planning on having as I began the second phase of this edit. Then again, the benefits could be immeasurable. Of course, to continue the monkey wrench metaphor, maybe all it will do is break a machine that’s operating perfectly well on its own.
What to do? At what point is it too late to make changes to the entire landscape of a narrative?
Part of me wants to accept what I have, forget this new idea, and move on with the work I’d set out for myself. Another part wants to run with this idea, invent this guy and stick him into the story, then start the long work of cleaning up the mess that follows. I can’t decide if I’m thrilled or destroyed at the prospect.