Day 121

Wow! Going through old files and backups, I found a synopsis I wrote in 2004 for The Terrapin's Trail (it was tentatively entitled A Long Way From Here). How fascinating! Despite some key characters and thematic elements and a general story arc, the plot is now entirely different than what I planned at the time.

It's interesting to me to see how far it's come along, and how I shaped and reshaped the plot and story over the years. And I must say, my initial thoughts on the plot sound ridiculous to me now, and thank goodness for common sense. Certainly, I wish I had kept a few of the plot elements from this original "outline." However, what I discover is that "outlining" doesn't really work for me. I often realize, as I keep writing, the story and plot change over time -- for the better, I may say. As I know more and more about my characters, they start to tell me their stories better than anything I could think of myself.

OK, that may sound like an odd statement. After all, everything comes from my mind; I am the creator of this story. However, I think most writers can relate and understand what I mean when I say, "My characters make me do it."

Let's just look at one piece of the synopsis:

Kai is a strong-willed fourteen-year-old boy living in Malaysia. The story begins when Kai, accompanied by his friend Paul, goes on a hunting trip in the dark forest, looking for a civet cat for his ailing mother. Aziz, Kai’s older cousin, urges Kai to return before nightfall. When Kai returns to his father’s plantation, he learns that the new governess, Margaret Branham, has arrived with her daughter Grace. Kai resents the presence of the governess, for it could only mean one thing – his mother is very ill and may not recover. Despite Paul’s objections, Kai raises havoc every chance he can; he’s extremely rude to everyone around him, acting like a spoiled brat. Grace, in particular, is miserable as a displaced American teenager in SE Asia. One day while confronting Grace in the papaya garden, Kai humiliates Grace in front of all the children. Grace disappears that evening.

Much of that has changed. The central characters still exist: Kai and Grace; Kai is now 17, not 14; Paul is a Malayan boy named Aziz; and Aziz is now Kai's brother named Juen. Grace is British, not American, and she came to the plantation four years prior, with her widowed father instead of mother. The Papaya garden scene has never been written. In fact, the whole section of the story is very different except for the opening hunting scene. The entire synopsis now reads like backstories -- which is good, since I could reuse some of the ideas during my rewrite.


Wow. That sounds far different even than the parts I saw long, long ago. Hope the writing is going well for you, Ray.
Ray Wong said…
Thanks Lori... I was surprised to read that, too. Very different than what I ended up with.

Popular Posts