Tuesday, March 29, 2005

A Big Fat Wrinkle In Time

I'm back in town and plan to watch Episode 3 of Mr. Romance later tonight, when I can commandeer the television without risk of DH walking in on me. Hate to say that I actually feel embarrassed that I'm watching and he catches me at it, especially when there is so much naked man-ness on the screen. Kinda like when I give him a hard time for watching CMT when a Shania Twain video is on...paybacks are heck.

Anyway, I have a particular writerly problem that perhaps someone else has had and can give me the solution to or point me to a link or dozen that would offer up some advice. My problem is all about timing.

Let me explain. I seem to spend way too long thinking about the timing of my books. (Meaning, the amount of time that the story covers, not the amount of time it takes me to write the book.) I write time-lines and think through events and seasons and months and all that stuff, agonizing about how long such and such would take and exactly when events A, B and C should occur. And Heaven help me if I want my characters to go swimming or skiing and then realize that I've set the entire situation such that they are in the wrong season. Really, I angst over this. And I use it to procrastinate to no end.

Part of the problem is that I'm one of those people who has the hardest time suspending my disbelief to accept people who fall in mad, passionate, forever love over the course of two days. The only time I allow myself to completely buy into that concept is when reading romantic action (read: Suzanne Brockmann) because the pace of the story is very fast and therefore the resulting relationship can keep equal pace with no complaint from me. But in more leisurely stories, I often wonder why everything happens within a week or a month. Who really meets Mr. Perfect on Monday and says yes to his marriage proposal on Saturday night?

I worry that I'm rushing my characters, not giving them sufficient time to get to know each other. But who really wants to (or has the time to) read about a romance that occurs in real time? I mean, what are the hero and heroine doing during all that down time when they aren't together? Sure, a well written story only shows the scenes that move the story and characters forward, but how do you go about explaining the gaps in time between the meet-cute and the first-kiss and the consummation and the marriage proposal? Or is every couple supposed to progress through this series of events with only a day or two between each step?

I think, too, my problem comes from refusing to let go of realism. I think about how long things really take to accomplish and when that amount of time - be it too short or too long - doesn't fit into the puzzle of my story, I get all wigged out. Is it okay to cheat - to allow a house that really would take about three months to build take eight months if I need the cute construction worker to stick around longer? Or if the hero suffers an injury that takes three full months for recovery, is it okay if I have him up and around in time to take the heroine horseback riding on the beach before Fall rolls around?

Stuff like this really stops me cold and puts up such a huge wall that I feel I must overcome before I can get started on the story.

I've read advice by more than one published writer who says to sweat the details later. Do the research later, double check the facts later, don't stop the writing momentum to solve the small problems. I understand this and I fundamentally agree with it. Problem for me is sticking with it. Too often I get started and realize I don't know some detail that seems crucial to the story and therefore cannot go on until I find out the answer. Big fat derailment ensues and I'm no longer writing but in research mode, full-scale panic that I don't know my characters or the location or the time period/chosen profession/insert any specific detail here well enough yet to write the story.

Same thing with timing. The second I realize that the way I've set the story it is physically impossible for Hero and Heroine to enjoy the Washington DC Cherry Blossom Festival unless they don't meet at their kids' preschool Halloween party when they are coincidentally dressed in coordinated Fred and Wilma costumes, I come to a full stop. I stress over changing everything to make sure the timing lines up correctly or try to find ways to stall...or I have to make a choice between scenes which makes me crazy because I really *wanted* that specific meet-cute at that specific time of year but I also *really* wanted him to propose beneath the fragrant pink blossoms of a cherry tree...Yikes! See what I mean?

Any ideas? I've got great sites to help me with plotting and character development and POV and dialogue...I need a cheat sheet for how to change the very fabric of time.

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