One of the problems I’ve been wrestling with as a writer is that I don’t plan my stories in enough detail. That is, I know what the story is about, and I know where the story is going, but as I’m writing, I hit walls in the plot, and I need to stop, back off, and navigate around them. No problem, except that it brings me out of flow, and I also end up having to go back and fix problems earlier in the story, both of which take time.
So I thought I’d try something similar to Lazette Gifford’s Phase System, which she wrote about several years ago. This is something I call “Agile Storytelling.” Basically, I write out a zeroth draft, which tells the entire story, but in a broad, abbreviated style. I pretend like I don’t know how to write. I tell, don’t show. The result reads like crap, but in order to complete this zeroth draft, I do need to go deep into the plot and the characters. That allows me to solve all the conceptual problems quickly, without spending too much time fleshing out details that I’ll just need to revise later.
After that, I edit the zeroth draft in order to create a first draft. I add in all the details and descriptions. I show, don’t tell. I create something I would not be completely embarrassed to be seen in public with.
Today, I thought I’d show you something I normally would not reveal, part of a zeroth draft for a short story, one of the bonus extras in The Conscience of Abe’s Turn book. Next week, I’ll post the first-draft version.
P.S. Please remember that the following reads like crap. I know it reads like crap. I omitted a lot of necessary detail and description. (I also included a bunch of details that had already been established through other stories, because those need to be retained in order for the series to make sense.)
I had seen a lot of violent abuse and battery as a sexual assault victim’s advocate, but only one other case that even approached the brutality of Clydene’s.
They told me that had arrested the perp, and that he wasn’t going anywhere soon (whatever that meant), but that they still needed a rape kit and her statement. They also told me that she was unconscious, recovering in her hospital bed.
They warned me that her husband was sitting with her in the room, and they didn’t trust his current mental state, so be careful. I’m a trained and licensed mental health counselor, so I thought I could handle myself.
I quietly entered the room. Ted touched her thumb, but she yanked it away in her sleep. Immediately, I felt a deep sympathy for her, but I knew I needed to be professional about it, or else I would not be able to be an effective advocate for the two.
“She may not want you to touch her for awhile,” I said, as matter-of-factly as I could.
He regarded me suspiciously, as if to say, “Who are you, to tell me about my wife?”
I added, “But she still needs you.” Didn’t know how he would respond, but wanted him to know she was not rejecting him.
“And who are you?” Ted asked, annoyed.
“I’m from the Sexual Assault Crisis Center,” I answered.
“You have an answer to this crisis?” Ted stood, towering over me. I instantly sized him up, saw it in his face. The situation was out of his control, and he couldn’t stand it.
“No, I don’t,” I replied, again as matter-of-factly as I could. [Explain why.]
“So why are you here?” I could see the emotion churning through his soul: anger, regret, guilt. I didn’t know the full situation, but he clearly felt victimized as well as she, a common response.
So I explained it to him: “Because when she wakes up, she’s going to think this was her fault, and she’s going to be as angry at herself as you are at yourself.”
He stared at me, closed up, probably couldn’t believe what I was saying was true, probably thought she would blame him, as he does.
“You wouldn’t think it, but believe it or not, that’s the most likely outcome, that Clydene will think it’s her fault.”
He shook his head. “It’s not her fault.” He sat back down.
“Who’s fault is it?” Of course, I knew the answer. It was the fault of the man who had done this. But he—I was sure—believed it was his fault, was currently finding, searching for reasons why it was his fault. Even I couldn’t know what all the reasons were.
“I don’t know you well enough to answer that question, Miss—“ Gotta be in control. Can’t feel vulnerable. Makes sense. But maybe he at least answered the question within his own mind.
I went with it, introduced myself. “Miss Jayson. But please call me Mira.” I stepped over to him and offered my hand for him to shake.
He looked like he wanted to say something, but before he could, Clydene groaned. She began to roll onto her side, but then she stopped and whimpered, “No.”