I’ve had the opportunity to have a couple of people who are very good at seeing the big picture take a look at the beginning of my Weird Oz Story. With their help, I’m beginning to get a clearer picture of what went wrong and how to fix it.
This story started when I’d read one too many novels in a row that featured a supposed female protagonist who sat around and waited for some guy to show them what to do. If you haven’t noticed already, that’s a really, really big pet peeve of mine. So, I thought of dropping a new “Dorothy” into a much more dangerous Oz–basically, the Jurassic Park version of Oz.
But it’s not working. I knew that, though I was too close to it to really figure out why. Now I’m starting to get feedback that helps me to understand why.
- In the interests of having my “Dorothy” make her own choices, even in a strange and unfamiliar world, I set her down alone. That won’t work. L. Frank Baum introduced Dorothy’s first companion, the Scarecrow, in Chapter 3. My character needs someone to talk to, someone to help her recognize the “she’s not in Kansas anymore” sooner. But not somebody to take over and tell her what to do. Most of all, another character who can provide some additional conflict. I’m working on an appropriate character for this–something or someone a bit ADHD who will be as much a hindrance as a help–more conflict.
- The first few chapters were a bit too frenetic. The whole novel can’t be just bouncing from one threat to the next. There has to be time to lay plans, reconnoiter, and take deliberate action. There have to be try/fail cycles in which “Dorothy” fails before she finds her way out. I have to throw enough at her to make it clear she’s in trouble, but I also need to pace it better.
- Writing it in first-person is turning out to be somewhat problematic for two reasons. The longer it takes to convince “Dorothy” that this really is Oz, the longer I’m actually shutting the reader out of the truth, too. Because the reader has to experience everything through “Dorothy” in first person, even while “Dorothy” is in denial. Also, I haven’t really hit on a likeable voice for “Dorothy”, probably partly because of her denial. I haven’t made a decision on this yet. There may be a way I can fix “Dorothy’s” voice. On the other hand, third person frees me to let the reader in on things Dorothy hasn’t figured out yet and, if I want, even to jump to another character for a chapter. That might be the deciding factor.
At any rate, I’m getting closer to getting back to this story.