“Your writing will teach you what you need to know” is one of my mantras. (My other biggie is “The way out is through.”)
It will, too. It does. Sometimes, however, I’m a little slow on the uptake.
In my journey through draft #3 of novel #2 I’d reached what I thought of as the novel’s set-piece. Most of Wolfie takes place either outdoors or in the various characters’ kitchens, living rooms, and studios (two of them are artists). Most scenes involve only two or three characters. This set-piece happens in a public place, a restaurant, with a dance band playing and a cast of — well, not thousands, but definitely dozens. A couple hundred maybe.
Approaching this scene, I had some apprehensions. The scene was contrived — by me, truth to tell, but still contrived. Somehow my villain had to see that his two nemeses knew each other. One of them strongly suspects his villainy; the other is becoming suspicious.
My mind contrived A Scene: a retirement party for a woman who’s the mentor of one nemesis and a respected former colleague of the other. The connection I needed happened. The story moved on.
But I couldn’t get the honoree out of my mind. I’d invented her for the occasion. She wasn’t real. But then this:
Now Lorna [the honoree] leaned in close enough for Shannon [POV character] to smell her perfume and notice the tiny beads of sweat on her forehead: Lorna had been getting down with the youngsters. “The real wonder,” she said, “is that I’ve survived this long. Promise you’ll call on me one of these days?”
Finally I got it. Lorna’s got a piece of the puzzle, a role to play. I’m gonna call, Lorna. I promise.