Archive for May 6th, 2004

5/5/04: Day of the Jackal

Word count: 70289 | Since last entry: 621 | This month: 3667 Jason finally fulfilled his self-imposed mission, and I passed 70,000 words. Jason’s happy now, but in just a few hundred words comes the moment that brings everything he thought he knew about what he was doing crashing down around his ears — and ties the two plot threads together for even the most inattentive reader. I’m not yet sure how much more of this chapter there is after that point. I’m prepared to play it by ear. I also went back and added a couple of sentences to address an issue my crit grop has had with one of the characters in past chapters. I never anticipated the reading they have of the character, but since at least two of them had the same idea I have to assume that some of the readers will as well. So I put that idea in one character’s mouth so another character could pooh-pooh it. It probably needs to be dealt with more thoroughly in rewrite, but for now I’ve at least acknowledged the problem. It strikes me that writing is a lot like software user interface design (my day job) — you have to anticipate the user’s reactions and direct them to do or think the next appropriate thing from where they are. Sometimes you get it wrong, which is why we have usability tests and critique, to spot those cases and give you a chance to correct the problem before the product/novel ships. On the other hand, in user interface design the eventual goal is not just to create an idea in the user’s mind, but to have them take action and accomplish tasks based on that idea. That’s both easier (a novel is an exercise in pure imagination, with no need to build any real-world functionality) and harder (there’s no interaction — the novel doesn’t know, and can’t take appropriate action, if the reader is off on the wrong track). Imagine a dialog box: “Are you absolutely sure you want to keep thinking it would be a good idea for Genevieve to go out with Leon? [OK] [Cancel]” I might take the train again tomorrow. It worked so well on Tuesday.