Asking the Right Person

Posted: April 18th, 2013 under Contents, Craft, the writing life.
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I’d been struggling with a chapter–and specifically the first scene in that chapter–for weeks, off and on, in and around others.    It’s pivotal to a very important plotline and also to the chronological tangle previously  mentioned.   I’ve rewritten it.  I’ve written completely new versions, not looking at the old one.  I’ve cut and pasted…cut and not pasted…moved things, ripped things out, added stuff…and nothing was quite right.  Today it began to make more sense (well, I understand what it has to do better, maybe) but something was still missing.  Finally, the missing detail was outlined for me  (X needs to have found/be holding Y), but what the heck was Y?

Y had certain characteristics….it had to come from Z, and it had to be something special in some way.    The Paksworld equivalent of a squashed beer can wouldn’t work, or a pencil stub.   Special overall, or special to X?   I wasn’t sure.    It had to function in a particular way, without specifying what that way was–it should not be obvious  how it worked, but that it worked for X.   No sparkles, in other words.   It needed to resonate with other plotlines than the one it was presently in.    One possible Y after another occurred to me, but none of them were right.

Finally, it occurred to me to ask the person at the other end of the house, on the other computer.    “What was in Z that might do [mmph] that X would have seen?”

And lo, immediately, he gave me the perfect answer.  All the resonance shimmered around it.  Everything needed, right there.   Brilliant.   It was like the big organ entrance in the Saint-Saens I’m listening to.   Startling and perfect.   Gave me shivers.   And only one other person–maybe–would have thought of that.     Along with asking the right question,  the writer needs to ask the right person.   Sometimes that person is down the hall.





  • Comment by Rob Bolger — April 18, 2013 @ 11:07 pm


    I don’t know how you manage to keep all the plot lines straight. My head would hurt I think. We (your devoted fans) appreciate the effort. 🙂

  • Comment by Susan — April 18, 2013 @ 11:49 pm


    Yes, we do, very, very much. Thank you!

  • Comment by Karen — April 19, 2013 @ 1:05 am


    Yes, we do appreciate the effort. We are also glad that you have someone at the other end of the hall who had the answer you needed. 😀

  • Comment by Daisy Kirkpatrick — April 19, 2013 @ 3:44 am


    I am a great fan of all your books and also very much enjoy following you on twitter. Thank you for your thoughtfulness and imagination. So glad you are expanding paksworld. You write on many levels, especially in that world and there is much that can be learned from reading and rereading. Holding oneself in an awareness of the taig can open doors in this world too. Again, thank you.

  • Comment by OtterB — April 19, 2013 @ 5:30 am


    I love these glimpses of writer-process. The only thing frustrating about them is that I want to know what X and Y and Z are when knowing would no longer be spoilerish, and it will be so long before this book is out that I won’t remember to look back entries like these once I’ve read it.

  • Comment by GinnyW — April 19, 2013 @ 1:06 pm


    Good news! And thank you to the person at the other end of the hall too. For a moment I thought the stuffed cow had come back to haunt us.

    I wonder what happened to Saben’s red horse, and whether it will turn up again if the sleeping mages from Kolobia awaken.

  • Comment by Richard — April 19, 2013 @ 3:35 pm


    Ah, but Paks now has another red horse to replace it. A live one.

  • Comment by GinnyW — April 20, 2013 @ 1:20 pm


    Richard – SO TRUE!
    But I liked the little carved horse, it stood out in my memory for some reason, and I have a very vivid picture of it. Probably some reason of mine, not the story’s, since the little horse was nowhere near as ‘significant’ in the storyline as Canna’s medallion. I have NO clear picture of the medallion.

    Random strikes of significance hit the mind of this reader like summer lightening on a hillside.

  • Comment by Genko — April 20, 2013 @ 6:33 pm


    I think the stone horse was a much more evocative image than the medallion. I can also picture it, but I suspect my picture is faulty. The one I see would be difficult to wear on a thong around one’s neck, for example, because it’s a little big, and has lots of angles and points sticking out. But, yes, I also really liked that horse. I would be surprised to see it surface again, but you never know. We lose many things in this life, and finally we lose this life. It’s a fact.

  • Comment by Jenn — April 21, 2013 @ 2:04 pm


    I always though Horse was red because of the lost stone horse. It was a way of Saban always being with her.

    Does Paksworld have multi-colored/patched horses?

  • Comment by Daniel Glover — April 21, 2013 @ 3:33 pm



    There was the spotted one in SD when Paks was first wounded and riding in the cart when the mule caravan was attacked. The Halveric captain (Seli) rode a dappled gray at Dwarfwatch.

  • Comment by Moira — April 22, 2013 @ 12:10 am


    Yes, I also miss the little stone horse. And I agree that the live Paladin’s horse that appeared that frosty day had to be red as a result!

    Sounds like the little carving (I always think of Zuni fetishes when I think of it) has quite a fan club. 🙂

  • Comment by Richard — April 22, 2013 @ 2:58 am


    Jenn (#10): hear, hear.

    Thank you Elizabeth for sharing the moment of discovery with us. I wouldn’t like to bet that (once you’d got to the question) your Plot Daemon wouldn’t have come up with the same answer in a day or two, but your person down the hall deserves our vote of thanks.

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