Welcome back to another chapter annotation, where I talk about the work that went into the writing of THE MEMORY THIEF. Up this week? Chapter two, the first introduction to Memory Thieving.
It’s interesting to me (and maybe others, though no one’s noted it yet) that there’s some overlap here between VODNIK. After all, the extended sequences with Lesana showing Tomas what happened to her in the past are essentially the same thing as what Louis shows Benji in this first chapter. I even use similar ways to describe the experience, with both Benji and Tomas feeling strange as they’re caught in a different body, able to view it all and experience everything, but not able to take control of the scene. Like puppets.
So the question could easily be asked if the two are more than just coincidentally related. I don’t have a hard answer for it, but I’ll say that I recognized the parallels when I was writing the memory scenes, and I went out of my way to make sure the two lined up properly. A lot of what I write is done by gut feeling, and only later on do I figure out what my gut was trying to tell me to do. Usually it’s a pleasant surprise, and so I try to follow my gut whenever possible.
As for the memory itself, the scene Louis showed Benji changed from the first draft to the last. In the first draft, Louis was on one of the ships that stormed the beaches on D-Day. It was a basic ode to Saving Private Ryan. I switched it from a ship to a plane mainly because it felt more exciting. More like something a twelve-year-old would find interesting and cool. The nautical version just didn’t have the same punch. It was also much shorter: about half as long. I decided to lengthen it to increase the attention the memory received. I didn’t want it over too quickly.
Other than that, the chapter got tightened a fair bit. In the original, Louis and Benji end up chit chatting for quite a while about memories and how Louis’ business works. This is necessary for me as a writer, because I’m often finding out what’s going on at the same time as my narrator, so I need to have those scenes to have it all make sense. It’s almost as if my characters are explaining to me how their world works. Once I’ve heard all of it, however, I usually have to cut those scenes out. It’s important for me to hear, but it’s not that important for you to read, if that makes sense.
I’ve tried plotting everything down to the smallest detail. I’ve tried plotting things generally. In the end, I almost always switch things up and go into the blank areas of the map, so to speak. One of my main motivations when writing is the same as it is when reading: I want to find out what happens next. If I’ve already plotted it, then I already know it, and why in the world would I want to write it in that case? So instead my first drafts can wander from time to time as I feel my way forward. Which is all fine and good, until I get to the revision stage and have to correct some of those wanderings.
This is especially important in the first few chapters of a book. That’s where I meander the most in my first drafts, and it’s where the reader most wants to get things going and have the plot zip along. As long as I keep this in mind when I’m revising, it usually all works out fine in the end.