Villi Asgeirsson

Drafting ideas...

Month: February 2013

Taking a story from Fragmented to Solid

Under the Black Sand started as a short film in 2006. It evolved into a screenplay in 2007 and was heavily rewritten and transformed by 2009. In 2012, a novel was completed, based on the whole thing. Although the few people that go to read it were enthusiastic, it wasn’t ready for publishing. There were too many loose ends, leftovers from the original short film. I wasn’t happy with it. I’m still not.

ScrivenerBut it’s getting there. I was able to finish the novel after I installed Scrivener. Now, I am able to make it the best it can be, because of the way the software breaks the manuscript up in small scenes.

In the original screenplay and novel, Peter, the protagonist, was hell bent on building a new suburb. He defied and fought the city authorities and this caused all kinds of twists ad troubles. But it somehow didn’t click with the main story. It was a nice way to add drama and suspense, but it was like a second story. It didn’t seem to have enough to do with his relationship with the elusive Emily. Who she was and what lay buried under the black sand.

I needed to rethink and refocus the whole work. An impossible task in an ordinary word processor. Scrivener made it relatively easy. I made notes for each scene. What happens here and why? How does it add to the story? How does it drive it forward? How does it connect? And if it doesn’t, will it be removed or rewritten completely?

Much work has yet to be done, but with Scrivener, the road ahead is relatively clear. The final work is in focus.

The Glorious Problems of Rewriting

After the great eruption in 1783, everything was gone. The sky had turned dark and they hadn’t seen the sun for weeks. Black ash and lava covered their fields and the tiny cottage was buried underneath. The animals were all dead. Many of the people the knew were dead. The land was dead. Black, like an eternal night in hell.

The church doors were locked, but hell invaded through the windows. The priest said his prayers, his voice rising above the volcano and the rain. As the little church shook with the earth, they all embraced death. But death wouldn’t come. Not today. The lava stopped just before it reached them. They had been spared.

But the eruption continued for months. The rain burned the skin and ground. Livestock died, the winter was cold, dark and bitter.

The above text is brand new. It was not a part of the novel I intended to publish. It is now, and it plays a major role in the development of the whole thing. Oh, and the mass described really took place and the lava stopped just a few meters away.

As I’ve said before, Under the Black Sand is being completely rewritten. The original screenplay had the story play out in Iceland. When I wrote the novel in English, I moved it to the UK. I beefed up the back story be making Peter a nineteenth century industrialist. Now that the story is back where it always belonged, in Iceland, massive rewriting and rethinking was necessary. Iceland had no industrial revolution until after the second world war. We never had railways to speak of. Peter needed something else to catapult him from a poor peasant to a business prodigy.

EldmessaInstead of an incident with a laird, the earth itself changed the course of history. A previously unknown volcano erupted in June 1783. It would go on for eight months and produce the greatest lava flow on earth since the end of the last ice age. It devastated farmland, leaving 50% of cattle, 60% of horses and 80% of sheep dead. Famine followed, killing 10.000 people, almost a quarter of the country’s population. Climate was altered for two years. Fjords froze solid and what crops that survived the fluoride, failed because of harsh weather.

Introducing this turning point to the story is a major operation. Many scenes need major revisions, while some have to be cut altogether. I did not write this post to plug a software, but I have to say that without Scrivener, I probably would have given up on the whole thing. Without the overview and structured workflow, such a massive rewrite would be all but impossible.

So there you have it. What would have become a tedious and probably impossible task, is now fun. The new story flows and excites me. No small feat after such a long writing process.

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