character / novel / plot / publication / writing

Still Thinking about Hitler

Okay, I’m not exactly thinking about Hitler.

But the last post discussed the idea of killing in a time traveling sense, which meant if-this-then-this thinking.

Writers do this kind of thinking all the time. If I have my character go here instead of there or say that instead of this…

And if you’ve written the story and go back and rewrite particular scenes, well, what you change has ramifications for the rest of the plot.

I decided a character didn’t have enough motivation to visit her brother in the hospital. She certainly feels no sympathy for him. Finally, I figured out why she would risk seeing her brother when she obviously shouldn’t…but now I’ve got to change little moments throughout the entire manuscript.

So in a way, if you go back in time and step on a butterfly, you do change the future. And if go back in your manuscript and send a character to steal a lock of her brother’s hair, you change your plot.

13 thoughts on “Still Thinking about Hitler

  1. I never thought of it that way, but it’s a great analogy. We’re the Marty McFlys of our own world. I love those moments, when you figure out the perfect solution to a problem and never wonder if it’s worth all the extra work to implement it. That’s how you know it really is the perfect solution.

  2. I’m doing revisions/editing this week too, Marta, so I know exactly what you’re talking about. It’s funny how someone can see something about your story/characters that you’ve overlooked (in this case, for years). It was pointed out to me that my protags have diametrically opposing motivations and world-views, and that their attraction pulls them both to the center, and away from their extemeness. All the tweaking, changing I’ve been doing lends itself to fueling this observation, and it’s mostly making it a better book (I think). But there are a few things that just seem to snowball into changes I hadn’t foreseen. Not good or bad… yet. But unforeseen, and interesting.

    Good luck with your submissions package! I hope your ms gives up on staring accusingly everytime you walk through the room. 🙂

    • Oh, those great moments when someone points out the obvious. I’m always grateful, but also frustrated with myself. It is so valuable though to have friends who will read your work and help you out that way.

      I think I’m happy with my edits. We’ll see.

      And probably my manuscript looks at me accusingly because I look at it that way first.

  3. My entire childhood was spent imagining going back in time to kill Hitler. My parents were concentration camp survivors. It never worked. My parents never would have met eachother to have me.

    • I thought of you when I wrote the post.

      And it reminds me of a poem by Sharon Olds. I can’t remember the title, but the narrator of the poem talks about how cruel and nightmarish were parents were and of terrible things they did to her, and she could reach back in time and stop them from getting together, she could tell them all the horrible things they were going to do to their child-things they didn’t think they were capable of–and yet she doesn’t stop them. She wants to pick them up and force them together because she wants to be born anyway.

      All the people who weren’t born because of Hitler and all those who were born because of him. Who’d want to choose?

  4. It’s interesting that you bring this up. I’m working my way through the Writing the Breakout Novel workbook and the author has me subtly changing moments in my story that affect the entire outcome, even though I may not realize it at the time. It’s been quite the learning experience.

  5. I’ve never understood how some writers can say that their books never surprise them — that the story and characters don’t change, in ways small and large, every time they dive back into a manuscript during its development. I guess for these people, “revisions” must be just a synonym for what the rest of call copy-editing.

    Have you ever seen the John Cleese talk on creativity (here and elsewhere)? Among other things, he talks about the script for a kit he’d once written. He LOVED the skit. But he lost the script, and forced himself to sit down and re-write from memory. Later, he found the original, and compared them. The re-written one was significantly better than the original. I love that story for what it says about the power of the subconscious… even when you’re working with something you already allegedly “created.”

    • I don’t understand that either.

      Okay, I’m going to be gone all weekend (in both universes), but I will watch the John Cleese talk when I get back. I love the Pythons, and Cleese is an interesting man.

    • Okay, I watched Mr. Cleese. I quite like Mr. Cleese. I would change the talk a bit though. At least as far as I can tell, I would say that for women who are wives and mothers, it would serve them well if they can learn to be creative, to write, to draw, to whatever the creative endeavor is, in a fluid space and time. If I can only write when my boundaries are set…well, I could give up writing right now. My work space is shared with my son. My time is constantly being interrupted. Mother and wives are expected to know where things are, when things need to be done, and they must checked in on regularly. Now, some women–hats off to them–have the whatever it takes to keep the office door shut, but I don’t have that. I just work with it and around it and hope for the best. I’ve learned to pick up the thread of an idea after answering this and all the rest. If I didn’t, there would just be arguments and no writing.

      It often seems to me that if men separate themselves and say to leave them alone, people by and large respect and feel that he is doing something important. if you’re a woman and do that, then you are being neglectful and selfish.

      Sigh.

  6. That’s a completely fair response and you’re completely right. I’m one of those people who regularly beats the “set a schedule and stick to it!” drum; I apologize if it’s ever upset or frustrated you.

    And, really: I need to be alone and 100% focused! qualifies as such a “First World problems” assertion in the first place.

    Grrrrr…

    • Oh my, no. You’ve never upset or frustrated me. If it weren’t for friends like you, I might have given up all together. I’d just read the Hines post when I wrote that reply, so the general tone is certainly informed by that.

      Well, also a friend of mine was telling me about a decorating show that had done this series on creating a man-cave in a home, and they were changing gears and talking about a mom-cave. Now, first off, there isn’t a dad-cave. It’s a man-cave. The other isn’t a woman-cave, it’s a mom-cave. Granted, mom-cave just sounds catchier, but there is still something wrong with that difference. Worse though was that while the man-cave idea is all about the man having his own space where no one else is allowed except his buddies he invites in for beer, a mom-cave–according to the show–was all about a welcoming space, a place for the kids to come in, a place where everyone is welcome.

      To which I wanted to say–isn’t that called the living room?

      But anyway. Reading the Hines piece and chatting about so-called mom-caves put me in a particular mood. In the meantime, everyone has to figure out works for them.

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