Over the last few days I’ve been tweeting about working on a “gnarly” chapter—in the slang derived sense of “difficult.” (Although it may also relate to the more formal “gnarled”, meaning “bumpy” or “twisted”, e.g. often a tree.)
So this particular chapter has difficult aspects, which makes for a bumpy ride for the writer.
Some of those aspects include:
This is a transitional chapter, so although things need to happen, their chief purpose is to move the story, and the reader, forward into the next section of the story. So part of the gnarliness was:
- Deciding what absolutely needed to be retained, in terms of action, and what could be dispensed with.
- How to keep the action that stayed in taut and lean, so the narrative continued to move right along.
Transitional or not, the chapter contains both verbal and physical conflict, which is all about sequencing. For example, once the physical action has started, it’s unlikely that the contenders will stop to discuss matters before the dust settles—so if there’s going to be ‘argy-bargy’ and/or taunting, it probably needs to happen early on, or there needs to be a very good reason for the antagonists to break off hostilities for a good old chin-wag.
The decisions characters make, and the actions they take, need to be logical under the particular circumstances and consistent with any ground rules that have been established previously. For example, if it has been established earlier in the story that it is too dangerous for characters to traverse certain terrain on foot, then they had better send for their horses before attempting it!
With this particular chapter, one of the elements I kept coming back to was whether all the characters were behaving believably, both under the circumstances and consistent with their previously established characters. Just when I thought I’d finally got it right, I realized that one of the character’s behaviour still didn’t quite gel—a “grrgh-aargh” moment! However, it may be that the process of paring back earlier inconsistencies and confusions was what illuminated that fact.
Written down like this, it doesn’t seem that gnarly—but nonetheless, the confluence of all these elements in one small chapter has made for a “bumpy” couple of days.
Still, I can hope if I’ve negotiated every bump and snarl satisfactorily, the final outcome may also be “gnarly” in the alternate slang sense of “extra good” or even “awesome.”