Mammon 0.7 is done! The second wave of beta readers got their copies this week, and I hope they know how much I appreciate their input. The first set of comments made the book a better one, so I’m looking forward to the next ones. I was gratified that no major changes were suggested. One tiny change turned out to have a significant impact, though. The suggestion was a small one, just to add a reference or two to a minor character. The result affected the whole manuscript.
When a well-constructed tale is properly told, it becomes reality in the reader’s mind. The events, characters, and settings are so concrete we can’t imagine changing them in any way. It would be much like going back to yesterday to change something we didn’t like. We might curse the writer, his progeny, and his ancestry, but we know we can’t change the universe we were fortunate enough to inhabit while we lived between the covers of a particular book. Much as Michelangelo found his sculpture in the marble, we assume the writer found a window into another universe and simply recorded what he observed.
Except, it’s all a lie. Every page, every paragraph, every line – sometimes every word – is the result of a million decisions made by the writer. On top of that, each one of those decisions has a million possible results. With a different character, a different setting, a different word, the world is turned on its head, and everything in that universe changes. It’s scary to think how easily my heroes might have been villains and my damsels could have been dragons.
An offhand comment led to the small change in Chapter 23 of Mammon. I deleted a minor, unnamed character and with her, fifty words. It took about one hundred words to put another minor character in her place to give him some extra exposure. The scene was self-encapsulated, so it was a minimum amount of work. Then, I read to the end of the chapter, just to make sure nothing else needed tweaking, and the result was profound. The creep-factor went up for the entire book based on that one, tiny change.
I think I should have suspected something bigger was going on because that scene, besides being the simplest of four scenes I worked on, took the longest to rewrite. It didn’t involve a POV or a setting change. Nothing I did intrudes into other scenes in any way. Everything about it is straightforward. It should have been a breeze, like the others. This one never rang true, though, so I left it for a couple of weeks. While I went about life it developed, found exactly the right spot in the manuscript, and burrowed its way in. When the timer went off in my brain, I just had to copy it all down.
Sometimes being patient pays off. Reworking the little scene with a big impact turned out to be sort of like using an Easy Bake Oven, except for writing ideas. I wonder if this is something I could market?