Hunting Artifacts

No need for a whip and gun, that’s not the kind of artifacts we’re hunting today. The artifacts I’m talking about are created in the rewrite process. They appear from one draft of you story to the next. Sometimes, as you edit your story, you may remove a character, an object or an event. Which means, that from that point on, you have to remove all references to what you removed or you end up with meaningless dialogue, scene description, or action.

For example, in the steampunk screenplay I’m working on, I had a running gag. I removed its origin. Then I had to go through the rest of the script to remove any reference to the gag because now the gag wouldn’t work. No one would understand what it meant. A friend of mine did a rewrite of his novel. He changed the focus of an inciting event that caused the Federal Government to get involved. Originally, the Federal Government and its agents were big players in the story. But now, the focus has shifted onto other characters and events. So now, when one character says to another, “You better watch out the Feds don’t find you”, it’s a meaningless statement. In fact, it’s confusing. Why would the Feds even be interested in him? Nothing in the story points to that being a concern.

As a writer, you need to know your story backwards and forwards. You need to know your characters back story, even if it doesn’t appear in your work. This is all good. It’s what you’re supposed to do. But sometimes, when you’re rewriting your work, you forget you’ve made a change. And a hundred pages later, you skim over a line that no longer makes sense. It makes sense to you because you know your story. But you forget that your reader now has no reference to this. It can be as big as changing the focus of your story, or a small as the color of someone’s shoes.

There’s an inverse to this as well. I wrote a scene where six of my characters were in an office discussing a problem. Halfway through the scene, my protagonist enters, has a few lines, then leaves. I rewrote the scene to shorten it. Six of my characters were in an office. My protagonist says a few lines and leaves. But wait a minute, I dropped where my protagonist enters. She just popped in. This was especially bad since it was crucial what she heard and what she didn’t hear.

Keep in mind what you have told your audience. That changes with every rewrite.

And if you still want a whip, that’s your personal business. I won’t judge.

1 Comment on “Hunting Artifacts

  1. I am going through this A LOT since I’ve been rewriting the story I began with a friend back in 2000. I jump all over the place, from scene to scene, evolving characters and have to go back and check the continuity of who they knew at the time and their reactions to them and what events have and haven’t happened. That’s the pitfalls of taking a long time to write your story, or stopping for a hiatus and then going back to it. When you think about the characters during that downtime, they still continue to evolve.

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