I’ve always admired the way Brad Meltzer structures his books (or at least the ones that I’ve read so far). I like the way that his main character speaks in a first-person present-tense to make the action feel more immediate, but the chapters alternate to third-person past-tense to tell the rest of the story as it plays out for the other characters. At least that’s what I’m calling those techniques, as I have no idea whether my terms are correct.
When I decided to add a new character to my novel, my plan was to retell (recycle) the story of my previous novel from another perspective. This has inspired me to try using Brad’s method to separate the present action from the history as it is uncovered. Suddenly I’m into experimental territory, and feeling less than confident about it.
I didn’t want my new guy to become a Mister Exposition, so I’ve made him into an investigator, uncovering the earlier story in pieces. However, he’ll need to have his own plotline, something to drive the book forward, and I have no idea where I’m going with it. For now, I’m trying to set up his own backstory, and the shifts in verb tenses are confusing me.
Flipping through the pages in my file box, I find the contact information for the agent that was there that day. Samuel Claxton is his name – I had forgotten that detail. He had been the one who scared away the few remaining stragglers, after the police had dispersed the main crowd and closed down the neighborhood. He promised me an interview in exchange for keeping his presence out of any news reports, and he also promised to ruin me if I even so much as suggested to anyone that the Aetherists were involved. I never did get that interview. I decide that’s where I’ll start, first thing in the morning.
With that excerpt, I’ve written only 1000 words today, leaving me behind the quota at only 2900 words total for the two days. I may need to abandon the grand narrative experiment and just get some writing done, in good-old-fashioned once-upon-a-time style.
As Captain Janeway says (said? will say??), “The future is the past, the past is the future, it all gives me a headache.” (quote from “Star Trek: Voyager” episode #3.8 “Future’s End, part 1”)