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Once More, From the Top

August 1, 2004

Well, after getting some sixty pages into Chapter XII, I made the decision last night to scrap it and begin anew.

Why?

Quite simply, I fell into the trap that Hollywood often does, of letting events, rather than characters, control the story. I was focusing too heavily on the Battle of Cannae, leaning upon the happenings, rather than letting the characters themselves drive the story and bring about said events through their thoughts and actions. In essence, I went all Michael Bay.

Granted, the Battle of Cannae is a big, huge, massive event. It deserves heavy focus, and it will get it, but NOT at the expense of the characters. There are a lot of conflicts that lead to the battle, and a lot more that take place during it. More than the obvious Romans versus Hannibal.

There is Paullus, the consul and Scipio’s father-in-law, who must contend with his friend and colleague, Varro. Varro wants battle immediately, and trusts to the overwhelming numbers of Rome’s legions. Paullus, however, cannot get Fabius’ words out of his head, to not fight a battle on anything but his terms. He does not like the ground, which is flat and ideal for Hannibal’s cavalry, and therefore must figure out a way to move the battlefield before Varro can rush headlong into battle. This is tricky, as the two consuls took turns commanding the army on alternate days.

There is Scipio, himself burning for battle but torn by an obligation to his father-in-law. And his friend Laelius, who faces all but certain death as the Roman cavalry endeavors to hold the right flank against Hannibal’s overwhelmingly superior cavalry and prevent them from falling upon the rear of the legions before they can break the enemy’s main line.

Characters, I agree, are shaped by events, but it is also their actions that lead to those events. For some time in writing Chapter XII, I lost sight of that. My mind was wholly on the epic brutality of the battle, not on the few figures swept up in its midst.

This time, it will be done right.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. Mark permalink
    August 2, 2004 12:20 am

    And that is why I could never be a writer. That’s ballsy….I would try and rework the thing a billion times so as to convince myself that i didn’t waste my time. your plan to scrap is almost certainly better, but requires a discipline that I don’t have. Well done mate and good luck with the next draft.

  2. Matt permalink
    August 2, 2004 7:18 am

    Well, it worked great with Chapter VII…

    But I hit a hell of a wall last night. And Saturday night. Just…brain full of fuzz.

    Pressfield says that Resistance always grows stronger as we near the end of a task, because it knows we are on the very cusp of success, and it has to mount its last ditch effort to turn us aside.

    Well, these past two days, Resistance has hit me hard.

  3. Kay permalink
    August 2, 2004 10:35 am

    Sounds like scraping the chapter was necessary. You’ll work through the resistance. The characters are what keep me interested in your book, the events are secondary.

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