Schrödinger’s Time-Travel

Last update, where I wrote about the demoralizing and expensive experience I had with my plumbing, I ended on a cliffhanger. My wife and I had taken our weekly pandemic expedition to the grocery store, and…

…After I got our supplies, the car wouldn’t start.

Well, some assistance from AAA and a precarious trip to the mechanic later, the verdict was that the alternator was hardly working. Yep, it was that kind of two-weeks:

The cost to replace the alternator was almost as much as the plumbing work we had done. I had to hide under a table for a while after hearing that, fearful of what the universe might have in store for me next.

Things could be worse. We’re not broke yet, but we can’t keep taking these big financial hits or we soon will be. Added on to the pain of the car repairs was the sting of losing my health insurance until June when a replacement kicks in. Then there’s the mystery issue with my unemployment preventing me from getting any benefits. I’m not being told what the problem is and can’t call them. The number is never accepting calls. So I’m forced to wait for a reply to my email and hope it just didn’t go down a black hole after I sent it. And it has been weeks.

I try to be a positive guy, but it was a lot to process in rapid succession. I got seriously depressed and had a hard time doing anything productive. :-(

After muddling through a tough week, I took the weekend and used it to recover my footing and reach a better state of mind. Coming out of it I returned to working on A Contract in Azure and Indigo, and that’s where my focus has remained.

Including work I did just before my two weeks of trouble, I got the seventh draft of Azure & Indigo past 26,000 words. I added a fifth chapter and its new sixth chapter is close to done. :-) Together, they sum about 8,000 added words to the piece. Editing— often extensive— is included in that, so wordcount alone is far from the whole of the effort involved.

Chapter five was difficult to write. For 80% of it, there is only one character. As my POV is third-person, objective without access to any character’s inner thoughts, monologue or emotions (the ultimate “show don’t tell” narrative, IMHO), it gets tricky to write long stretches without another character to prompt and bounce dialogue with. Fortunately, my protagonist tends to talk aloud, and that helps smooth this out somewhat. The narrative also includes reading a letter the MC is writing as the chapter opens. That grants a private view of her stated thoughts, and sets up her emotional back-and-forth for the rest of the chapter: She’s running away from home, but is very conflicted about her choice.

I felt a good creative high wrapping it up, and got to work on Azure & Indigo’s new sixth chapter after reaching the other side of my car and plumbing problems.

Yes, another new chapter. :-) However, it’s not a new, new chapter. ;-) It’s just that the first two scenes of the four I had planned for chapter five ended up longer in wordcount than I’d planned. And two short but connecting scenes were added as well. Rather than have a freakishly long chapter compared to the rest, I ended chapter five at a point where a narrative pause was an excellent option and put the scenes into a chapter of their own.

And that chapter is now almost done. Six just needs an editing sweep of its last third and a few closing paragraphs to be finished. I came up with some good ideas for this one, and I’m happy with how I applied them. The second half of the chapter was even more difficult than writing most of five, however. I think I threw out enough material in cuts, edits and rewrites to have written it four times over steering it clear of one plot-hole after another.

That section is tricky because the story both does and does not involve time-travel. Let’s call it Schrödinger’s Time-Travel. This is a core part of the plot, and it is the expansive and fundamental change I decided to add when starting the seventh draft. This aspect of the story isn’t made apparent to the reader until the start of the second act in chapter four, but I hid a lot in plain sight revising the first act to support it. Chapter six is when one of the two protagonists discover matters greatly amiss. Even then, she doesn’t fully grasp what is going on. She gets a better understanding in the upcoming climax of the second act, but not a working one until the end of the third when she and the second protagonist jointly come up with a theory.

Things are complicated further by paradoxes that run counter to typical time-travel conventions. And again, that’s because this story both is and isn’t a time-travel story. I know what’s going on— and the reader gets clued-in along with the protagonists by story’s end— but keeping multiple levels of continuity and rules on track is the tricky work keeping me on my toes right now. My stumbles arose from writing dialogue that felt natural and grew the characters and setting… but in review I was creating gaping plot-holes in the first act. In other words, normally good stuff I’d want to do was sinking the story elsewhere with logic problems. It took trial, error, and some plotting to get past that.

Maters are complicated further by paradoxes that run counter to typical time-travel conventions. And again, that’s because this story both is and isn’t a time-travel story. I know what’s going on— and the reader gets clued-in along with the protagonists by story’s end— but keeping multiple levels of continuity and rules on track is the tricky work keeping me on my toes right now. My stumbles arose from writing dialogue that felt natural and grew the characters and setting… but in review I was creating gaping plot-holes in the first act. In other words, normally good stuff I’d want to do was sinking the story elsewhere with logic problems. It took trial, error, and some plotting to get past that.

And now, like a fool, I’m starting another new chapter and possibly the climax of act two. And this one is a new-new chapter. Seven won’t be filled with the same pitfalls six had, though. If it plays out like I think it will, Protagonist A will even piece several chunks of the mystery together in it.

As the story keeps evolving and growing— and as I keep getting excited about what I’ve written and where I’m going— I’m wondering exactly what I’ll have when I’m done. It’s definitely and already a novella. I’ll be adding another new chapter or two, and then the third and final act is going to need major rewrites and additions. Could all that equal a short novel somewhere above 40,000 words? I’m looking forward to finding out. :-)

Take care everyone. Be safe, and keep writing!

~Jason H. Abbott

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