“The world always seems brighter when you've just made something that wasn't there before.”
Neil Gaiman

author: Nicole J. LeBoeuf

actually writing blog

Day 17: Less (Detail) Is More (Credibility)
Wed 2010-11-17 22:29:54 (in context)
  • 32,686 words (if poetry, lines) long

It's this weird balance. In order to establish credibility and to really put your reader in the scene, you need details. Aspen, not tree. Prius or Civic, not car. You don't say "Somehow she managed to figure it out." You show how she figures it out. ("Somehow" means "The author doesn't know, either.") And when your character slips beneath a box-spring to hide inside the hotel-style frame it rests upon, you can't just say "she panicked when she realized she'd never get out again by herself." You have to describe the onset of nausea and the feeling of a scream trying to get out. You have to make the reader smell the dust under that box-spring, taste the air going stale in that airless space, hear how sounds in the rest of the room are muffled by the smothering mattress.

But then if you're too detailed about other things, you invite disbelief. It's like the way writing too-detailed rules invites people to game the system. I continue to have a problem figuring out or even simply imagining the detective game Jet plays to figure out the connection between Councilman Hackforth and the Swifts, for instance. I can't say "and then she got it!" with no supporting detail. But I also can't describe her getting into Lia's workplace incognito and tracing various financial records until she finds the dirty money, because A) I don't quite know my way around plausible details for that, and B) if I attempt to make them up, the whole house of cards comes tumbling down. And I can't rely on "Because she's dreaming, the dream magically provides things like key cards and passwords" too much or it becomes the sonic screwdriver of my novel.

I think I need to rewatch some Leverage episodes. I always feel like everything about the computer hacking and info-stealing is plausible while I watch the show, only to realize later that I really didn't quite follow. There was enough detail to keep me nodding along, but (usually) not enough to get me picking it apart. (The big exception is whenever they do something with airlines. The writers for Leverage really need to sit down with the latest FAR/AIM before trying to write another "bluffing the pilot with a surprise inspection" scene.)

I haven't quite figured out that balance yet, which is why I skipped right over all that stuff and wrote the assassination scene. I'll figure it out on the rewrite, I guess. Or in December.

But the problem rears its head once more as I try to figure out how Lia outsmarts the gang leader in his own home, despite a room with no hiding places, no windows, no weapons, and constant monitoring via regular and infrared cameras. Here I am with a stack of cards again and instructions to make a house out of them...

Oh, screw it. How about we have Jet come back at a time convenient for engineering a power outage? Which Lia takes advantage of admirably, so she's not just a damsel in distress waiting to be rescued?

Nevertheless, I'm sure that even this more simple scheme involves plot holes which one might drive a truck Chevy Tahoe through. But screw it anyway. This is rough draft. This is NaNoWriMo. I'll figure it all out eventually.

"Oh, and about those cameras," he said. "They're infrared. You have no secrets here." He turned out the light as he left, locking her into complete darkness.

Lia once more lay in a defeated state of aching disarray. Degraded was not a strong enough word. Nor was violated. Just--defeated. But the feeling passed sooner than before. Maybe that was because she was less exhausted now, having slept a night through. Maybe it was putting a night's sleep between herself and Jet's--departure. That's all it was, she told herself: a departure, a temporary goodbye. She tried hard not to remember what Jet looked like dead. But having slept and eaten since then, and having the more immediate problem of her captivity to worry about, it was easier to hold that memory at bay. Departure. And she'd made a decision when she awoke this morning, if it were indeed morning. She'd made a decision not to just wait to die.

So she found herself on her feet once more, turning the lights back on, running another bath to clear her body and her mind. She washed off the blood and other fluids, inventoried her body for new bruises, studiously ignored the hidden cameras she couldn't do anything about. She also inventoried the room--mentally, since she couldn't investigate physically without alerting her monitors to her actions. But she walked tens, hundreds of laps around the room, considering possible hiding places (though the room was devoid of hiding places). She calculated possible escape routes (though escape routes were notoriously absent). And she thought about possible weapons. Jet had made a deadly weapon out of a champagne glass. Pa Montrose's exposed throat lingered in her memory: an opportunity. If she could only find a single sharp object easily hidden in the hand, if only she could secret it away without the cameras catching her, she might actually look forward to the next time he screwed her. She'd screw him right back, fatally. Let his thugs kill her for it; she'd die happy. She walked around the room again, evaluating her resources.

If only she were Jet. Jet wouldn't even need a weapon. She'd simply strangle him with her bare hands.

If only Jet were here.

The next day--she had to assume these were days, measured as they were in three meals per and ending with a bedtime visit from Pa Montrose--a strange static snapped somewhere in her consciousness, and a ringing began in her left ear. She thought very little of it, other than that the auditory hallucinations were especially loud in this silent prison of a room.

Then, about ten minutes later, the lights went out.

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