Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Point: Wiesner

As I was finishing up the character sketches that Wiesner recommends for her outlining method, I realized that I had a problem. One of the secondary characters, who won't make her appearance until about halfway through the book, was slated to be the protagonist's older sister who disappeared years ago. This character is now a bounty hunter who has been sent to "recover" the protagonist. The character sketch form asks for the character's birthday. Well, I hadn't thought about it (since she hadn't appeared in the story yet, there wasn't much point), but in the interest of completeness I tracked back through Exodus Project timeline to see when she could have been born.

Uh oh.

You see, it's critical that she be an adult when protagonist's parents leave Earth. But if the parents are going to be the age they need to be (and have a teen-aged daughter), then that simply isn't possible. In short, there's no way this character could be the protagonist's sister. The dates just don't work.

Now, I haven't mentioned anything about the journey from Earth -- it happened nearly twenty years before the story takes place. But if I change that part of the timeline, it will have an effect on the entire "future history" of the storyline. I created the timeline specifically to make sure all the events I refer to happen in their proper timeframes. So, even though the date of birth or the age of this secondary character isn't mentioned, it still is going to cause problems down the road. The protagonist has already made a passing reference to a "sister" in the part of the story I've written so far (about a fifth of the book).

After thinking about it, the character works just as well as the protagonist's mother's sister (the protagonist's aunt). The dates work out perfectly, and in truth, it makes more sense that the aunt would be left behind on Earth than would an older sister (even an adult). But the point is this: If I hadn't caught the inconsistency now, I would have had huge amounts of text to rewrite and no guarantees that I would catch all the changes that needed to be made.

So score one for Karen Wiesner.

Maybe there's something to this outlining business after all, I dunno. There's nothing magical about Wiesner's "method" -- in fact, I wouldn't call it a method at all, it's just simple planning ahead. Nevertheless, it's planning ahead that I don't usually do. Editing and revising is easy for me. I don't mind it at all -- in fact I enjoy it. But I have to admit that catching things like this early will get me to a finished book faster, even if it means I only eliminated one rewrite. That may be worth the price of admission on it's own.

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