Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Toying with plots

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I had an interesting conversation the other day with a friend. In talking about my soon-to-hit-the-bookshelves novel, I was telling him the various ways the story might have gone if I'd let it. One particular direction still holds some interest for me, but I decided against using it since the idea I did decide to go with gave, ultimately, a much stronger story line. His comment was, "Wouldn't it be cool to write the book again using your second idea for the plot?"

The more I think about it, the more I like the idea. First, the book would be very different from what it is now. Second, it would illuminate two of the main characters from a completely different angle. Basically, they would not be the same people at all. The other two main characters, having been borrowed from previous novels and with their personalities already set, would remain the same, but they would now have to respond differently to their plot-mates.

Since the plots of my books are rather "organic" (meaning I don't outline and often don't know much more than my characters do at any given point as to what's going to happen in the story), what occurs in the story would also necessarily change a great deal.

I wonder how viable something like this would be commercially? Would a publisher be willing to take on an experiment like this? What would be the reaction of reviewers and the reading public?

I'm not talking about a revision of the story, even a radical revision. Authors have done that before, as have movie directors with their "director's cuts). This would in truth be a different book. The four main characters would be the same, what starts off the story would be the same, but where it went from there would divert to a different path around page fifty.

There's a poem by Frost about taking one path or another, and for the life of me, I can't remember much more about it (not being a big poetry reader), nor can I find it online, but it relates to what I'm talking about here. Every time we make a decision to do one thing rather than another, our lives irrevocably change. If I'd decided not to go to that party at my friend's house on the Memorial Day weekend in 1970, I wouldn't have eventually (two weeks later) hooked up with my wife, wouldn't have moved to Montreal to finish university, wouldn't have formed a band and moved to Toronto, and wouldn't now be writing novels. The only thing I can see that would have happened regardless of my party-going decision would have been that I would have taught music in schools -- possibly...more than likely.

That's just one decision and look at its impact.

Since fiction writers get to play God all the time, the idea of "What if?" is a very intriguing one. Maybe some day in the future, I'll go back and write my different version of A Case of You.

Maybe this is a place where an electronic book would be the perfect format for my idea.

Coming soon (possibly, perhaps, maybe, if I find the time/inclination/wherewithal) to an electronic reader: Another Case of You!

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book: Toronto.

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Rick Blechta

Rick Blechta is the author of the novels Knock On Wood, The Lark Ascending, Shooting Straight in the Dark, Cemetery of the Nameless, and When Hell Freezes Over. A Case of You, his latest novel, will be published in the spring of 2008 with Rendezvous Press.

Go to Rick Blechta’s Author Page