Friday, July 26, 2013

The Core Puzzle - David Oppegaard - Biggest 'Ah-Ha!' Moments in Writing

     Each novel I’ve written has contained its own core puzzle and my hope, as its author, is to successfully solve it before the novel dies on the operating table and cannot be resuscitated, no matter how many additional rewrites I slog through. Solving this core puzzle results in an “A-ha!” moment that can be profoundly satisfying, like removing a deep and painful splinter.

     Each core puzzle is unique to the particular story I’m trying to tell. The puzzle may be related to nuts and bolts craft components like plot or character motivation, or a loftier element such as theme, but whatever the core puzzle may be, it is inevitably hidden from sight until deep into the first draft or beyond. Sometimes well beyond. The trick is to remain patient, keep writing, and watch for it from the corner of your eye.

     The “A-ha!” moment for my first published novel The Suicide Collectors actually came in a late draft, so late my agent and I had already submitted the novel to a few editors and gotten their helpful feedback. They felt the novel’s tone was off, somehow, and I decided to kill off one of the novel’s main characters. This resulted in an extensive rewrite, but it produced a grittier world more suited to a story that involved a global suicide epidemic. By removing a beloved yet out-of-place character, I’d solved the novel’s core puzzle and could move on to refining the story.

David Oppegaard is the author of the Bram Stoker-nominated The Suicide Collectors (St. Martin’s Press), Wormwood, Nevada (St. Martin’s Press) and The Ragged Mountains (ebook). He lives in St. Paul, MN, and teaches the occasional fiction class at Hamline University.

You can visit his website here and his writing life blog here.

No comments: